Washington

Hakim Hart goes off in first career start for Maryland

Washington

The difference from one day to another in college basketball is going to be startling this season. Not only for which games can be played during the coronavirus pandemic, but for how players can rise to the occasion. 

On Friday, against a team that Maryland barely had time to scout against, Maryland's Hakim Hart rose to the moment. Earning his first start of his young career, the sophomore scored 33 points on 11-for-13 shooting, blowing past his career-high and scoring more points than he had collectively this season. It was the highlight of a 90-57 blowout of Saint Peter's.

All of this came after what Mark Turgeon described as a terrible shooting performance at practice. Just the day prior he couldn't get a shot to go down. The next he scored more points in a game than Bruno Fernando, Kevin Huerter, Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith ever did. 

"Yesterday he missed a few in practice and passed [a shot] up and I didn't like it and got on him," Turgeon said postgame. "I said 'you can be one of those guys that misses your first two shots and thinks you're going to miss your third. If you miss your first four, you think you're going to make your fifth."

By virtue of getting the start over an injured Aaron Wiggins, Hart hit the first two shots he attempted, both 3-pointers. Both came before the first media timeout.

From there, he rarely missed again. Only three times did a shot come off the arm of Hart and not go in the cylinder, twice from behind the arc and once at the charity stripe. He put up 13 shots from the field and seven free throws on the evening. 

 

"It felt great," Hart said postgame. "It excites me a lot. This proves I could do it. There's more and more games and I'm going to show what I can do."

All of last season Turgeon raved about the shooting ability he had seen from Hart. Those compliments just never translated to a game that mattered. Toward the season's end, he got some more minutes and his confidence grew, but he never showed out for more than seven points. 

Turgeon knew, though, that if the Terrapins were to have a good season this year, Hart would have to make a jump.

"He just couldn't get it going (last season). Just couldn't get it going," Turgeon said. "We all knew as a staff that he was a good player."

"He always had the confidence," teammate Donta Scott said. "He just had to go out there and show us that he can go do what he's capable of doing."

His 33 points are the second-most any Terrapin has scored since he took over the helm of the team in 2011. Only Diamond Stone has scored more in the Turgeon era. 

And while this performance is great to showcase the depth of Maryland, Hart starting will be short-lived. Wiggins' elbow injury had sidelined the guard all week, missing every practice. No one was sure he was even going to play until the morning of the game.

Turgeon says Wiggins will go right back into the starting lineup for the next game. 

Hart isn't phased. 

"It is what is, we have a lot of great players on this team" Hart said. "Nah, that's fine."