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

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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