When it comes to dominating the recruiting rankings in the Big Ten, Maryland basketball doesn’t typically come to mind as having more incoming talent than traditional powers Michigan State, Michigan or Indiana.
But the Terrapins were rated No. 1 in the Big Ten and top-10 nationally last year with a six-player 2018 class that included McDonald’s All-American Jalen Smith and a few four-star prospects.
Smith and sophomore Bruno Fernando, both athletic and versatile 6-10 forwards, give Maryland a frontcourt with two projected future NBA draft picks. Smith had 14 of his career-high 21 points in the first half Tuesday against the Gophers. Fernando had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“They are a team, in my opinion, that could compete for a Big Ten title,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “They’re very, very talented. Terrific, terrific frontcourt.”
The Gophers are relying on two freshmen starters from one of the best recruiting classes under Pitino last year. Center Daniel Oturu and guard Gabe Kalscheur have started all 15 games this season.
Despite not being as highly rated as Smith, Oturu and Kalscheur demonstrated why they have major roles in their first season. Kalscheur scored 10 of his 13 points in the first half, including the first seven points of Tuesday’s game. Oturu, who had four consecutive double-doubles earlier this season, added another one with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Former Gophers and Maryland big man Ben Coleman, who died Sunday, was given a moment of silence before Tuesday’s game at Williams Arena.
Coleman, a former Minneapolis North star, played for Minnesota from 1979-81 and finished his career with the Terrapins in 1984. He had two nephews who played with the Gophers: Joe and Dan.