EAST LANSING, MI- When Anthony Cowan made his first basket of the game, a three-pointer from the right wing, he glanced at his bench with a look of determination.
After draining consecutive three pointers in the final minute of the game, Cowan looked back at his bench with the same cold stare. Cowan’s second three-pointer in his personal 9-0 run gave the Terps a 62-60 lead over Michigan State. A lead they would not look back from on their way to a 67-60 victory.
“Kid’s just a winner. He does what he has to do for us to win the game,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “And tonight of course he had to hit big shots.”
After a stop, the Terps had the ball with a chance to take the lead. As the shot clock wound down, Aaron Wiggins attacked the paint and kicked the ball out to Cowan. Just before the clock expired he hoisted a three-pointer that dropped to give Maryland the lead. The ensuing possession Cowan drained one more trey, this one from the top of the key to put No.9 Maryland up 65-60 and send the Michigan State faithful home.
Maryland jumped out to an early lead in the first half, spearheaded by their backcourt. Cowan got the scoring with a three-pointer from the right wing. He followed that up with another three, this one from the top of the key to give Maryland their first lead at 6-5.
Hitting timely threes was a key in the first half, especially while the Spartans couldn’t help but watch multiple shots rim in and out. One sequence featured a Cassius Winston three-point attempt roll around the rim a few times, subsequently rim out and lead to a transition three for Wiggins. The Terps shot 5-11 from three in the first half while the Spartans were just 1-8.
Late in the first stanza, sophomore guard Eric Ayala went on a personal 7-0 run to extend the lead to 15. It was Maryland’s largest lead at Michigan State ever.
“That’s the normal Eric I always see. Eric can take over at any point in time,” Smith said. “He’s got a lot of confidence right now and he’s just playing amazing right now”
But the resilient Spartans would not fold. Playing through big man Xavier Tillman, the Spartans started to chip away at the lead, especially when Jalen Smith picked up his second foul with 4:39 remaining.
Tillman’s 14 first half points helped keep the Spartans alive to strike in the second half. Suddenly, the shooting percentages flipped and it was the Terps who could not buy a bucket. Kyle Ahrens drained a corner three with over eight minutes remaining to tie the game, and the Breslin Center erupted.
“We knew they was gonna make a run,” Cowan said. “ After they made a run, we made our run late. Luckily our run finished the game.”
Ahrens’ three was followed by a three from Cassius Winston and Michigan State had their first lead since 6-5. The Spartans would extend that lead to 60-53.
A month earlier the Terps faltered down the stretch, blowing a late lead to Wisconsin. A game before that, they were run off the court at Iowa. The Maryland team from that stretch looks unrecognizable compared to the one that won in East Lansing on Saturday.
Cowan simply refused to fail and did what was needed to pull out the win. Even after hitting the dagger that sent the fans packing, the seasoned point guard did not crack a smile.
“We still haven’t won anything,” Cowan said, with the same focused gaze. “ I don’t have a ring, my teammates don’t have a ring.”
Maryland does not have any rings yet, but winning in East Lansing clears the way for the Terps to win the Big Ten outright. With six conference games remaining, Turgeon’s team controls their own destiny.
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