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

Slow start comes back to bite Terps in 75-67 loss to #3 Purdue

Maryland limped into their Wednesday night matchup against Purdue as a desperate team. The last few weeks have seen many disappointing performances and tough losses but things got even worse for the Terps when they lost Michael Cekovsky to an ankle injury in Tuesdays practice. The severity of the injury is unknown but Cekovsky did not make the trip to Mackey Arena on Wednesday, leaving the Terps very undermanned against the #3 team in the nation.

If you’re like me, you were anticipating a blowout loss after hearing this unfortunate news. Maryland certainly didn’t do themselves any favors early on and failed to score a basket for the first four minutes of the game. This cold start looked like the beginning of the end but the Terps hung around throughout the first half thanks to a slightly underwhelming offensive performance by Purdue.

The Boilermakers finished the half shooting just 35% from the field. In addition to this, they failed to flex their muscle under the basket and allowed Maryland to match them in rebounds. However, a lopsided 11-1 turnover margin would be the downfall for the Terps. Purdue wasn’t running their best offense but this advantage was enough to give them a 35-24 lead at the half.

I think the best way to describe this Maryland team and their season is a tale of two halves. Every major game usually sees Mark Turgeon’s team start strong but fall apart late thanks to a lack of depth. Wednesday nights game was definitely a tale of two halves but this time Maryland was able to turn it on and play a great second half.

Maryland nearly doubled their first half point total while testing the Boilermakers down the stretch. Bruno Fernando and Darryl Morsell helped lead a potential comeback with great second half performances but the size disadvantage and depth issues would catch up with the Terps in the end.

Fernando struggled to assert himself against Purdue’s big men early in the game but started the second half with a pair of impressive possessions. The electric freshman would end up finishing with 20 points despite battling foul trouble. Morsell contributed 13 points of his own and played a very tough game on the boards. The Freshman picked up seven rebounds int he first half and finished the game with nine for a new career high.

Kevin Huerter had a great second half performance as well and single-handedly put the Terps back in the game. Around the nine minute mark Huerter nailed three straight three pointers to cut Purdue’s lead to just one possession. It was their slimmest lead since the very beginning of the game when they went up 4-0. The environment had completely changed after this quick nine point run but Purdue had an answer.

Good teams do not crumble under pressure and even though the Boilermakers had just surrendered their lead, Matt Painter was able to setttle his team down with a timeout. They would come out of this short break and put together a mini 7-0 run to take back a ten point lead.

Purdue had trouble stopping Huerter and the Terps from beyond the arc but they were able to utilize the drastic size difference to easily regain their lead and eventually close out the game. No matter how many big shots the Terps made, Purdue was just too tough under the rim. As usual Isaac Haas was a forced to be reckoned with. The senior racked up 20 points with ease to lead the Boilermakers to their 18th straight win.

Sophomore guard Carsen Edwards had 17 points while Dakota Mathias chipped in 11 and made his 200th career three pointer in the first half. The Boilermakers now have the longest active win streak in the nation and continue to build their best conference start in school history. Early in the year, Michigan State looked like a clear favorite to walk away with the Big Ten but Purdue has quickly emerged as the new front-runner.

Maryland hasn’t had the easiest schedule but anytime you lose six out of eight, there is a reason to be concerned. The Terps are still winless against ranked opponents and the road ahead will likely only offer one more chance to change that. The Cekovsky injury will be a huge factor moving forward as well. I would assume losing him for any amount of games would surely put the nail in Maryland’s season.

Image Credit: Michael Conroy / AP

Terps collapse in final minutes of 71-68 loss to Indiana

On Monday night Maryland traveled to Assembly Haall to take on Indiana. The Terps had not won a game in this building since joining the Big Ten and that streak would continued as the Hoosiers slipped past Maryland for a late 71-68 win.

Maryland is now 1-5 on the road this year and can’t seem to get a win even when they are in control late in the game. Anthony Cowan had 13 points in the first half but couldn’t keep that pace going when things started ramping up down the stretch. The sophomore ended up putting up 18 shots in Mondays loss, including six from beyond the arc but only made six for 18 points.

It was frustrating to see Cowan force shots in the second half when he just didn’t have the same touch. Kevin Huerter was far more consistent throughout the game but couldn’t get his hands on the ball late in the game. I’m not sure if this was by design or not but it was clear that Cowan was not in the same mindset when things got rough. The refs didn’t make it any easier on him too. I can;t even count how many times Cowan tried to get things going by driving to the rim only to be bumped with no call.

This close loss is certainly not entirely on Cowan’s shoulders though. Both Michael Cekovsky and Joshua Tomaic, who was making his first career start, went scoreless. Bruno Fernando came off the bench and provided some sparks of offense but went down with an ankle injury early in the second half. The freshman big man would not return and the Terps suffered as a result.

When you see these stats, it’s clear to see why Cowan took so many shots. At the same time I still think it is fair to criticize him for it when he just wasn’t getting the results he wanted from himself or the refs.

Even if Fernando had stayed in the game it would have been close down the stretch. Indiana was shooting very well right from the opening tip and finished the game 50% from the field. Eighteen Maryland turnovers also strongly contributed to Indiana’s success but the Hoosiers never let Maryland get any separation. Through all the ups and downs, Indiana matched the Terps perfectly.

Had it not been for some big performances by the Terps bench players, Maryland would have been blown out by the Hoosiers. Jared Nickens stepped up big time and provided 12 points by going 4-7 from beyond the arc while Dion Wiley chipped in eight of his own.

This was enough to keep Maryland in the game but in the end the Terps depth issues and lack of composure where exposed. It wasn’t on my mind earlier in the year but the absence of Melo Trimble has clearly impacted this teams ability to close out games. The former Maryland guard had a knack for getting to the rim and making the clutch shots. That has been missing in a handful of key games this year but most notably against Syracuse, Michigan, and now Indiana.

Maryland really needed this one to help build some steam because the road ahead is looking very tough. The next two games will be against #6 Michigan State and #3 Purdue. The only good news is the Terps will have the rest of the week to prepare for their rematch against the Spartans on Sunday. However, it will be a quick turnaround as they have to travel to face the Boilermakers that following Wednesday.

If Maryland can’t get Bruno Fernando back soon they don’t stand a chance against either of these teams. Both Michigan State and Purdue boast impressive frontcourt players that will feast on the Terps big men. Maryland’s lack of depth at this position was exposed very quickly the last time they played the Spartans but it will be even worse without Fernando.

Image credit: Darron Cummings / AP

Maryland uses late push to take down Penn State 75-69

COLLEGE PARK, MD — 2018 is here and the Maryland Terps are ready to really dig into their conference schedule. After dropping two big games against Syracuse and Purdue, Maryland was able to finish 2017 with six wins before Big Ten play took over for good.

While the talent has certainly been there, we knew that this Maryland team was going to be a work in progress throughout the season due to their youth. The Terps took a big hit this past week though when Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender were ruled out for the remainder of the season. Jackson was being counted on as one of the leaders of this team and Bender will be greatly missed from a depth standpoint.

Replacing both of these players is not going to be easy and their absence will hurt the teams chances of competing against the bigger names in the Big Ten. You just hope that the team will mature rapidly enough to overcome this.

The first half of Tuesdays contest was a little unconventional for Maryland. Kevin Huerter picked up two fouls very early in the game and was forced to sit on the bench as a result. Huerter went scoreless but there was enough scoring from Anthony Cowan and Bruno Fernando to give Maryland a slim lead for most of the first half.

Neither team was able to get a three pointer to fall until a little over two minutes remained in the half. Penn States’s Tony Carr broke this with a pair of three pointers which helped spark an 11-3 run for the Nittany Lions. Penn State went into the half with a 34-30 lead.

Penn State and Maryland continued to play a very similar style of basketball in the second half. Neither team had a clear advantage in rebounds, turnovers, or shooting percentage. The only area of the game that ended up being disproportionate was the free throws. Maryland didn’t waste much time getting into the bonus in both halves but ended up making just 23/34 at the line. Penn State only shot four free throws in the entire game.

The second half scoring continued to come from those who had a hot hand. Cowan and Fernando would finish as the top scorers for the Terps but Kevin Huerter was able to finally come alive down the stretch. The Sophomore didn’t score his first points until about the ll minute mark when he knocked down a pair of free throws.

Overall the second half was what you would expect from Big Ten matchup. Two teams trading points back and forth until the final minutes when someone manages to pull away just in time. Here is how that happened for Maryland.

Darryl Morsell had a rough night but he sparked the Terps final push by nailing a three pointer with 4:30 to play. The big shot tied the game up but it wasn’t until the next possession when Michael Cekovsky got the home crowd really fired up. The big man was able to wrestle the ball away from a defender and throw it down for a huge dunk, giving Maryland their first lead since the first minute of the second half.

As the clock continued to tick away, the Terps played their best defense of the night and really put the pressure on the visitors. Kevin Huerter’s stellar finish included 13 points and four rebounds and played a huge role in the Terps win. Huerter was also lights out at the free throw line to help Maryland put the game away in the final minuets.

The 75-69 win marks Maryland’s second in conference play and gives them some nice momentum going into what could be their biggest game of the season. Mark Turgeon will have to get his young team ready by Thursday as the Terps prepare to take on the #1 ranked Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing.

Image Credit: Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post