Maryland captures elusive road win by taking down Northwestern 71-64

It was not pretty and the second half certainly wasn’t clean, but in the end the Maryland Terrapins pulled out their second road win of the season by taking down Northwestern 71-64.

With these two teams meeting just nine days ago, there was some familiarity when they stepped on the court Monday night. The Wildcats were coming off of a devastating loss to Michigan State in which they lead the Spartans by 27 but still managed to lose 65-60. Maryland, on the other hand, has enjoyed a decent amount of success in recent games while winning three of their last five.

The Terrapins shot over 50% from the field in Monday’s win over Northwestern but got a great deal of offensive production from some players who usually remain quiet. Michael Cekovsky has not started much since returning from injury but still provides the team with a nice boost off of the bench.

It’s not often that Maryland has an advantage under the basket but Cekovsky didn’t waste anytime using that to his benefit when he came off the bench in the first half. The 7-foot-6-inch senior dominated the rim with three dunks and four rebounds in the first half.

Dion Wiley also came through with one of his more flashy performances of the year. Mark Turgeon has given Wiley an opportunity to start a lot of games over the past few weeks but he has stuck to his role as a facilitator for the most part. On Monday, the junior from Oxon Hill dropped 13 while adding three rebounds and a pair of steals.

Kevin Huerter would finish with 18 points and four assists to lead the Maryland offense. He was also responsible for three of the Terrapins five three pointers in the game. It was interesting to see Maryland shy away from the deep shots especially in the first half when the Wildcats were flourishing from beyond the arc. Chris Collins’ team shot 15 three pointers in the first half and managed to sink eight of them to take a 37-30 lead¬†at the break.

However, that previously mentioned height difference between each teams big men helped the Terps keep pace with Northwestern early and eventually pull away. I am also a little surprised with just how fast the Terps played at points, especially in the second half. With the regular season coming to a close, I would have guessed that most of the team would be drained from playing extended minutes all year. Instead, Maryland did a lot of their scoring in transition and appeared to fluster the Wildcats down the stretch.

Maryland’s 41 point second half was fun to watch mainly because of their consistency. There were no scoring droughts as the Terps spent the full 20 minuets battling to either get even or hold on to a slim lead. Just like their game against Rutgers on Saturday, Maryland did a good job of closing the game out with a lead as well. Northwestern started intentionally fouling a little earlier than expected and the Terrapins took advantage by going 6-6 from the line to put the game on ice.

This second road win has been a long time coming for the Terps. There have been a lot of close calls since they took down Illinois in overtime earlier this season but they could never quiet get it done. I was happy to see Maryland thrive away from home but I can’t help but think about Northwestern’s arena situation.

The Wildcats have been relocated to the Allstate Arena this season while their normal home gets renovated. This has resulted in a lack of home court advantage for Northwestern. Just look at this picture of their student section¬†from tonight’s game. None the less, the Terps found a win outside of the Xfinity Center and that all that matters.

Maryland will honor their senior players this Saturday as Michigan makes a trip to College Park. Big wins have eluded the Terps all season but they will get one more crack at it as the Wolverines are currently sitting at No. 17 in the AP rankings.

Image credit: Jim Young / AP

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Terps are good as gold in 73-57 win over Northwestern

Coming off of a 74-70 loss to Penn State, the Maryland Terrapins needed a good performance to jump-start the final stretch of their season. With the Northwestern Wildcats in town on Saturday, the Terps were able to put together one of their best all around games in conference play for a convincing 73-57 win.

Kevin Huerter led the way with 22 points but there was no shortage of offensive production for Maryland. In Wednesday’s loss against the Nittany Lions, Maryland played great on offense but didn’t find an answer for Penn State’s shooters. Saturday’s win over Northwestern felt like the natural progression from Wednesday as the Terps added a great defensive performance to accompany the scoring.

Three other Maryland starters finished with double-digit scoring numbers. Darryl Morsell continues to stand out among that group. I saw him grind out some tough baskets against Penn State and he continued to play very well against the Wildcats with 14 points while going 7-10 from the field. As a freshman playing more minutes than he expected, Morsell continues to improve every time he steps on the court. Even though Huerter and Anthony Cowan scored more points, Morsell was the anchor for the Terps with three assists and nine rebounds.

Maryland finished the game shooting just under 53% from the field. Right from the opening tip the Terps looked primed for a great offensive afternoon. Huerter scored 12 of his 22 points in the first five minutes while going 3-3 from beyond the arc and the team continued to shoot over 50% for a majority of the game.

As I said earlier, Maryland was also very locked in on defense. The Wildcats struggled to get open looks all afternoon and only remained in the game thanks to some decent three-point shooting. The Terps racked up seven blocks and forced 13 turnovers to fluster the Wildcats. Northwestern would finish the game shooting 33% with just seven assists as a team.

I think one of the biggest defensive accomplishments for Maryland was keeping Bryant McIntosh under control. The Wildcats senior point guard has given the Terps a lot of trouble in the past but couldn’t even get on the board in Saturdays contest. McIntosh went 0-5 with just one assist and three turnovers.

After watching these past two games, it’s clear that Maryland’s success moving forward will depend on the their ability to share the ball. The team’s top scorers are playing close to a full 40 mins every three to four days and simply can’t be relied on to shoot the ball over 15 times a game. With guys like Morsell, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens putting together good offensive performances, the pressure can come off of Cowan and Huerter. The Terps offense has definitely been running a lot smoother recently with 30 of their last 52 baskets coming via an assist.

Up next for the Terps is a trip to Lincoln Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers. Nebraska is currently on the fringe of qualifying for a trip to the NCAA tournament so they cannot afford to drop one at home. Maryland has also struggled on the road this season, winning just one game away from home in Big Ten play.

Image credit: Nick Wass / AP

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 fail to build on first half success, drop contest with #6 Spartans 74-68

After dropping a big road game against Indiana on Monday, the Terps got nearly an entire week of rest leading up to their rematch with #6 Michigan State. The Spartans had a much more turbulent week. In wake of the Larry Nassar trial, the University has been in hot water, specifically the athletic programs.

In addition to this, Michigan State’s basketball team faced a tough schedule this past week. They were able to defeat Illinois and Wisconsin despite all of the chaos around their program but the stress and pressure of playing three games in seven days certainly toke a toll on the Spartans when they¬†entered College Park on Sunday.

Maryland has been desperately waiting for a rematch after losing by 30 points when they traveled to East Lansing a few weeks ago. The Terps didn’t waste any time getting their home crowd involved with a pair of three pointers by Dion Wiley and an alley oop dunk by Darryl Morsell.

This early 8-0 lead put the momentum in their favor right from the start. The Terps¬†would not surrender that lead until the second half. No matter how close the Spartans got, Maryland had an answer. Fueled by the raucous crowd, Maryland’s offense was able to run a lot of fast breaks and enjoyed a lot of success in transition. Overall the shots were falling for Maryland while the Spartans struggled to shoot above 30% from the field.

The Spartans were clearly not playing their best basketball. They turned the ball over a lot and missed some layups¬†while trying to keep up with the Terps. Maryland did a great job of shutting down Michigan State’s top scorers though. Miles Bridges and Nick Ward combined for just five points on 2-11 shooting in the first half.

The second half was a completely different story. Despite taking a 13 point lead at the break, the Terps couldn’t keep Michigan State from erasing that lead in the first five minutes of the second half. The Spartans made major adjustments during the break and didn’t have any problems changing the pace of play in their favor.

For the first time in the game, Maryland was forced to play a close game and that is when their depth issues became exposed. I give Anthony Cowan all the credit in the world for being the leader of this offense but he is playing too many minutes per game. The sophomore has delivered some great performances this season but I think the pressure of playing a lot of minutes is starting to catch up with him. In recent games, Cowan has struggled in crunch time and the second half in general. Sundays game was no different.

A balanced offensive attack helped give Maryland the lead in the first half but in the second they were forced to slow things down and Cowan was called upon to shoot more than his share.

The two teams battled throughout the entire second half with the refs calling every small foul along the way. Both teams entered the bonus quickly and the foul shooting became the main source of scoring in the final minutes. Maryland kept their opponent close enough for a late game rally but their rebounding would end up killing them.

Kevin Huerter hit a big three pointer with 3:30 left and Jarred Nickens followed with a layup to make it a one possession game. As a top ten team, the Spartans have faced a lot of situations like this and they showed the amount of composure you would expect while sealing a victory on Sunday.

Maryland played some good defense without fouling but they just couldn’t get their hands on the rebounds. It was a problem all day but with the game on the line, Michigan State was able to reset their shot clock and drain a lot of extra time in the final minutes of the game. The Spartans racked up 19 offensive boards on the afternoon and out-rebounded the Terps 46-29 overall.

Michigan State utilized this advantage and made the necessary foul shots to secure a 74-68 win. Maryland has now dropped five of their last seven and the NCAA tournament is looking almost out of reach. There is a lot of basketball left before we get to March but Maryland is running out of opportunities against top-tier competition.

Even if they manage to take down a ranked team, a deep run in the conference tournament might be necessary to punch a ticket for March. The Terps will have to regroup quickly as they travel to face #3 Purdue on Wednesday.

Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / 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

Strong second half leads Maryland past Minnesota 77-66

The Maryland Terrapins came into Thursday’s matchup desperately needing a win. The Terps had run into a rough patch over the last two weeks and dropped three of their last four games. The third and most recent loss came on Monday when Maryland couldn’t hold a late lead against Michigan and lost in a 68-67 heart-breaker.

On Thursday the Terps returned their comfortable home atmosphere to host Minnesota, another Big Ten team looking to make a name for themselves in the conference. Just like Maryland, the Golden Gophers have experienced some tough injuries and been labeled a disappointment. When the game started the two teams continued to look rather similar but the Terps would pull away in the second half and win 77-66.

Four Maryland players finished with double-digit scoring but the starting five was as solid as they have been all season in every facet of the game. Anthony Cowan is usually the driving force behind the teams scoring but the sophomore played a great all around game to help lift Maryland to a win. After going scoreless in the first half, Cowan finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and a career high 10 assists.

When you look at Minnesota’s night it’s almost crazy how they remained in the game in the first half. The Golden Gophers struggled to shoot over 30% from the field throughout Thursday’s contest but made enough from beyond the arc to stay in striking distance. Some great offensive rebounding and a surplus of Maryland turnovers also helped contribute to a slim 29-28 Maryland lead at the half.

The second half was an entirely different story. While Minnesota continued to struggle, Maryland came out of the gate strong by making 10 of their first 11 shots. Michael Cekovsky started to heat up during this span, racking up a quick ten points in the paint. The rest of the Maryland lineup consistently fed Cekovsky the ball and he continued to deliver with a handful of dunks that brought the crowd back to life. Cekovsky finished his night with 17 points and four blocks.

Thursday’s win also saw a return to form for¬†Kevin Huerter. Unlike some recent games, the Terps didn’t have to wait around for the pale menace to show up. Huerter led the way right from the start, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the first half. The sophomore would also finish with eight rebounds and five assists to round out one of the best starts of his career.

Maryland will hit the road again on Monday to play Indiana at Assembly Hall. The Hoosiers are another team stuck in the middle of the Big Ten and will certainly pose a threat to a Maryland team that has struggled on the road.

Image Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP