COLLEGE PARK, Md. — An ankle injury slowed Bruno Fernando late in the preseason. It certainly isn’t causing any problems for the Maryland freshman now.
Fernando scored a career-high 18 points and added six rebounds and three blocks as the Terrapins cruised to a 76-45 victory over Jackson State on Monday night.
“For him to be doing what he’s doing is pretty amazing,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s showing great patience and playing with great confidence on the low block, and defensively he’s been off the charts.”
Kevin Huerter and Jared Nickens both added 14 points for the Terps, who are averaging a 23-point victory margin.
The 6-foot-10 Fernando started for the second consecutive game as Turgeon used his fifth starting lineup in as many contests this season. Fernando matched his previous career high of 14 points in the first half, providing an early spark as the rest of the Maryland defense struggled with the Tigers’ shifting from man to a variety of zone defenses.
Jackson State closed within 23-21 with less than seven minutes left in the first half, but Fernando delivered a dunk and a subsequent free throw to deny the Tigers a chance to take the lead. That ignited a 28-6 run that spanned halftime and blew the game open.
“For me, I just think I’m a freshman on paper; I’m not really a freshman when I’m out there on the court with the guys,” Fernando said. “Having them seeing me doing something and following up with it means a lot to me.”
Jeremiah Jefferson scored 11 points for Jackson State (1-3), which has lost all of three of its games against Division I opponents this season.
The Tigers shot 30 percent from the field, the fourth team Maryland has held to less than 40 percent this season.
“I thought they used their size and length and we don’t see that in our conference,” Jackson State coach Wayne Brent said.
Jackson State: The Tigers, picked to finish third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, won’t face another power conference team the rest of the regular season. That’s probably for the best, especially since SWAC preseason defensive player of the year Treshawn Bolden (back) has yet to play this season and is not expected back until Jan. 1.
“We have four guys out, and all four would probably start,” Brent said. “It wouldn’t make much of a difference in this game, but when we play our other games it will. We don’t play anyone else like Maryland.”
Maryland: Nickens produced his second double-digit scoring outing of the season after having one such game all of last season. The senior reserve’s improvement is a welcome sign for a team that could face Syracuse, Purdue, Illinois and possibly Texas Christian in the next 14 days.
Turgeon said guard Darryl Morsell suffered a slight hamstring strain in the first half. Morsell, who entered the night averaging 10.8 points, played only six minutes and did not return.
“He told me at halftime he wanted to play,” Turgeon said. “I don’t know if he could have, but he said he wanted to. Four days (between games) will help. He’s pretty important to us, and we have to get him back.”
Jackson State: The Tigers face Maryland-Eastern Shore on Friday in the first two games in Niceville, Florida, as part of the Emerald Coast Classic.
Maryland: As part of that same event, the Terps will play St. Bonaventure on Friday.