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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Terps lose important game against No.11 Wisconsin, 71-60

On Sunday Maryland lost a very important game against Wisconsin, 71-60, and once again found themselves without a win against ranked competition.

In the early minutes Maryland was taking most of their shots from beyond the arc.  Enough of these shots went in to make it a close game, but it was obvious that the Terps did not want to be shooting that many threes. The Wisconsin defense was not allowing anything inside, forcing Maryland to put up some desperation attempts late in the shot clock.

The match-up remained closely contested but some questionable calls on both teams put a brief damper on the game late in the first half. During the last four minutes of the half there was an influx of foul calls that brought the flow of the game to a halt. To make things worse, both teams missed a fair share of these free throws, making the end of the first half even harder to watch.

At the break Maryland led 33-27 courtesy of shooting 50% from the three point line. However, the Terps were at a severe disadvantage in the turnover department.  Wisconsin was not shooting very well but the extra opportunities they got from Maryland’s turnovers definitely contributed to the close game.

Early in the second half, the Badgers quickly erased the Terps’ six point lead and established a substantial lead of their own with a 19-5 run. The energy inside the Kohl Center had drastically changed and Maryland was not able to find the big shots they had in the first half to silence the crowd.

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Melo Trimble led the Terps with 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.  Source: Andy Manis, AP

With just over nine minutes to play, Maryland was crawling back and had made it a one possession game. Following an aggressive play where Damonte Dodd got out wrestled for the rebound, Coach Mark Turgeon received a rare technical foul.  Turgeon is very animated, like many other college coaches, but rarely oversteps his boundaries. The foul allowed Wisconsin to regain control and extend their lead once again

 

If the Terps were going to come back, it was going to be an uphill battle. The shooting percentage difference from the first half had almost evened out with both teams floating around 40%. The Terps were also losing the turnover and rebound battles. Wisconsin took advantage of the Terps’ second half struggles and never looked back. They held onto a double digit lead through the final minutes and finished with a 71-60 victory.

Coach Turgeon will surely get a hefty amount of blame for his technical foul.  While I do think it is absurd to place the loss on his shoulders, the outburst came at the worst possible time for Maryland.  That being said, I could also point to the turnovers, the overly sensitive foul calls, or the complete lack of a backbone on the glass as the reasons for this loss.

My only hope is that this loss does not outshine Maryland’s impressive win against Northwestern on Wednesday. I believe the Terps are due for a boost in the rankings on Monday but we will see.  The good news is that Terps will play three of their final four games at home with the sole road game being against the last place Rutgers.