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

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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