Fernando feasts on Scarlet Knights, helps Terps hold on for 61-51 win

Last Saturday Maryland pulled out their gold uniforms for their matchup against Northwestern. The result was a dominate 73-57 win, so why not do the same this week? The Terps decided to don the Gold once again and the result was another win. This time Maryland took down a basement dwelling Rutgers team 61-51.

Bruno Fernando was the clear leader for the Terps in this one, finishing with 18 points and a career high 16 rebounds. The freshman even scored the first three pointer of his career on a wide open look in the second half.

After their victory over Northwestern last week I said that this Maryland team has looked different as of late. Not only do I think that stands after this one, but I think it’s clear that the team has made major adjustments down the stretch. Unfortunately, these changes are coming a little too late as the Terps will have to win out just to get to .500 in the conference.

The Terps have found success in recent games by spreading the ball around and trusting each other on offense. We all know that the team is shorthanded because of injuries but you have no choice but to trust the guys you have at this point because you can’t win with the same two players shooting the ball 17-20 times a game.

This trust has resulted in a well-balanced offensive attack that features consistent scoring from all five starters and a couple of bench players, depending on the game. This was on full display right at the beginning of the game when the Terps took a 10-0 lead. Maryland took just four minutes to jump out to this lead and their first five baskets were scored by a five different players.

Anthony Cowan also had a standout night and really got a chance to run the Terps offense while taking a backseat when it came to shooting. The sophomore still put up 14 points but only shot the ball ten times. Instead, Cowan was able to help the Terps with six assists and five steals.

As the first half progressed the Terps continued to pass the ball well but more importantly, they protected the ball. Maryland went 11 minutes without a turnover and finished the first half with just two. Rutgers, on the other hand, coughed up the ball seven times. All of this was a recipe for a 31-19 Maryland lead at the half.

For a majority of the second half it looked like the Terps were going to run the Scarlet Knights off the court. Maryland started the second half with another 10-0 run and even had a 24 point lead at one point. However, with the clock approaching five minutes to play, Rutgers didn’t roll over and made things interesting with a 10-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to just nine.

In the end Maryland would close out the game like any good team does. They held the ball and trusted themselves to make the necessary baskets even with a dwindling shot clock. Rutgers maintained a high level of energy through the final minuets but the comeback was shutdown once Maryland got to the free throw line.

The Terps will have a quick turnaround as they prepare to play Northwestern again on Monday night. The Wildcats are coming off of one of the worst second half performances in Big Ten history. Playing without Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern scored just 11 points in the second half, allowing the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans to erase a 27 point defect and win the game 65-60.

The Terps handled their business when they hosted Northwestern last weekend but we all know how bad they are away from home. You can only hope that this devastating loss rattles the Wildcats and impacts them on a short turnaround.

Image credit: Nick Wass / Associated Press

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Terps have trouble keeping up with Penn State’s offense in 74-70 loss

Playing without Michael Cekovsky for the third straight game, the Maryland Terrapins needed a big performance from Bruno Fernando on Wednesday night. They got just that, but it still wasn’t enough to stop a hot Penn State team. The Terps and Nittany Lions both ran impressive offenses but Penn State would walk away with the 74-70 win, giving Maryland a 1-7 record on the road.

While Fernando’s performance was certainly a key to keeping Maryland in the game, he was not the only player with an exceptional night. Five Terps players finished with double-digit scoring and the team shot 54% from the field as a whole.

Anthony Cowan played a great game and was able to get back to running the offense instead of trying to do it all on his own. The Sophomore guard went 4-for-7 with 15 points, five assists and three steals. Darryl Morsell provided some much-needed offense as well. Morsell’s freshman year has truly been a roller coaster after being asked to play more minutes than expected, but this was definitely one of his better performances.

Morsell scored 10 points by going 5-for-8, but the way he picked up these baskets is what really impressed me. The Freshman was scrapping for everything in his 33-minutes on the floor. On a few fast breaks, Cowan dished the ball to Morsell a little late and forced him to go up against the defender instead of a clean layup. Morsell also had a very clean game with no turnovers and just one foul.

Penn State was just as dominant on offense and also did a great job of spreading the ball around. Lamar Stevens led the way for the Nittany Lions with 25 points and looked unstoppable at times. The Sophomore forward was completely locked in for the entire game and ended up going 10-for-12 from the field with four rebounds and two blocks.

The Terps have struggled to put good offensive games together in recent weeks which made Wednesday night’s game such a treat to watch. Unfortunately, Maryland couldn’t find an answer for Penn State’s effective offense while making too many small mistakes throughout the game.

Turnovers and a lack of awareness on the glass allowed the Nittany Lions to maintain a lead over the Terps for the entire second half before closing it out in crunch time. Between the 14 Maryland turnovers and nine offensive rebounds for Penn State, it’s not hard to see what the difference maker was in this one.

Maryland will return home on Saturday to host Northwestern. After surprising the Big Ten last year, the Wildcats find themselves struggling to stay afloat in the middle of the pack. Chris Collins’ team is 6-6 in conference play but appears to be turning it around as of late. The Wildcats have won four of their last five, including a 61-52 upset over a No. 20 Michigan and a pair of road wins against Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Maryland’s tournament dreams may be over after this loss to Penn State. Winning the Big Ten tournament would give them an automatic trip to March Madness but that requires winning three or four games in the span of a weekend. With most of Maryland’s starters playing close to 40 minutes every game, this will be tough to do.

Image credit: umterps.com

Cowan scores 23 to help Terps grind out 68-63 win against Wisconsin

The Maryland Terrapins haven’t lost four games in a row since 2005. That almost changed on Sunday when the Wisconsin Badgers traveled to College Park and tested the Terps on their home court.

After getting off to another slow start, Maryland found themselves down for a majority of the first half. Wisconsin has had a very rough season and came into this one as underdogs but their defense was on point and clearly surprised the Terps. They also knew that the Terps would be playing without their starting center, Michael Cekovsky, and used that to their advantage. The Badgers went after Maryland’s big men and picked up a lot of  second chance point opportunities with a handful of offensive boards.

The Terps would not stay down for long though. Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter helped fuel an 11-0 run at the end of the first half that gave them a 33-23 lead at the break. With just seconds remaining Cowan timed a Wisconsin pass very well and came up with a break away steal to cap off the run.

Wisconsin was chased off the court at the end of the first half but they stuck to their game plan and continued to play a very stout defense in the second half. Stopping Maryland’s offense would only get them so far though. The Badgers needed a big performance from their junior forward, Ethan Happ to get back in the game and they got just that. Happ jump started the Badgers with six points in the first few minutes of the second half and finished the afternoon with 18.

Down the stretch Wisconsin was forced to sit Happ after he picked up his third foul. Despite having their best player on the bench, the Badgers were able to slow the game down to their pace and make it a very close game. The final ten minutes were filled with plenty of foul calls, forcing the game to move at a grueling pace. Overall it was a typical Big Ten game but this pace change definitely benefited the Badgers more than the Terps.

With the game coming down to defense and free throws the Terps were able to dig deep and grind it out despite playing a very flawed game. Just like the first half, Cowan and Huerter were the go to guys and that made the difference for Maryland in crunch time. The sophomore duo finished with 23 and 19 points respectively, making six free throws each.

 

 

Nobody else scored in double digits for Maryland but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some quality performances. Sean Obi, of all people, was called upon to pick up a hefty amount of minutes with Cekovsky on the bench. The senior transfer from Duke has averaged just 1.6 points per game this year but his defense was on full display in Sunday’s win against Wisconsin. Obi was able to stifle the Badgers big men and rack up six rebounds in his time on the court. He even came through with three points thanks to a smooth and-one opportunity in the first half.

Bruno Fernando only finished with six points but his energy was essential to Maryland’s win. The freshman was tested all afternoon, especially by Happ, but kept his composure. Fernando finished with nine rebounds and few flashy offensive plays to get the home crowd hyped up.

 

We all know that the Terps season has been in free fall since losing three key players to injury. Sunday’s win was far from a good one but a loss would have probably ended their hopes of a tournament appearance. For a Terps team with a 14-2 home record, Wisconsin got a little too close for comfort but Mark Turgeon’s team should only be focused on the road ahead at this point.

Maryland will travel to Penn State on Wednesday for their second meeting with the Nittany Lions this year. When these two teams squared off back in early January, Maryland was able to win 75-69. Penn State always seems to give the Terps trouble and I expect this Wednesday to be no different.

Image credit: Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports