Feature photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.
Terps fans began the countdown, enunciating the seconds for their team to hear. With Maryland leading Ohio State 80-75 with under a minute to play, this was the Terps’ chance to put the Buckeyes away once and for all.
Anthony Cowan heard the crowd counting and the seconds ticking. He knew he had to get a shot up or take a turnover. He dribbled at the top of the key, putting a hesitation move on Ohio State’s C.J. Jackson before squaring up with three seconds remaining on the shot clock.
Cowan froze as the ball floated, keeping his right arm outstretched and leaving his hand dipped in the cookie jar. He broke his form after the swish, jogging backwards and failing to hide a smile that said today was his day.
That three iced the game for both Maryland and Cowan, putting an exclamation point on one of the best games of the freshman’s young career, especially considering his recent scoring performances. In the previous five games, Cowan went 0-of-11 from beyond the arc and had averaged six points per game during the span. His 19 points Saturday tied his career high, and his three 3-pointers were Cowan’s most of the season.
Mark Turgeon said Thursday he told Cowan he wanted him to lead the Big Ten in assists and be the league’s best defender in the season’s final seven games. This bit of coaching helped bring out the best in his freshman point guard, Turgeon said.
“‘I don’t care if you score,’” Turgeon said he told Cowan. “Then he goes for 19 points, because you talk about that, it takes the pressure off of the other part.”
Turgeon still wants Cowan to lead the conference in assists and be its best defender, but is thrilled to get points from him, too. On a day when Melo Trimble shot 3-of-11 and Justin Jackson managed just three points, offensive production from Cowan was game changing.
Cowan said Turgeon’s requests didn’t remove any pressure, but it did help him focus.
“I think in the last couple of games, I have been trying to force points and make sure I get on the board,” Cowan explained. “But this game I wanted to lay back and get my teammates involved as much as I could.”
Cowan spent much of the last week on the court, using that focus to work out of his scoring slump.
“Last week, I was making sure that I was in the gym consistently, before and after practice, because I have been struggling a bit,” Cowan said. “I just want to make sure I can help my team, and today I was able to hit those shots.”
That extra work paid off less than three minutes after the opening tip in Cowan’s first shot, a triple to give Maryland an early 7-0 lead. It was his first 3-pointer since Jan. 19 against Iowa. Turgeon told Cowan to keep shooting.
“[Making my first shot] gives me confidence throughout the whole game,” Cowan said.
Maryland’s depth showed against the Buckeyes, with the Terps’ bench outscoring Ohio State’s 33-0. Cowan didn’t come off the bench, but with Maryland’s top two scorers being held well below their season averages, having backup options like Cowan is vital.
“It’s really important, especially for teams that are putting pressure on [Trimble],” Kevin Huerter, who scored 18 points Saturday, said. “If other guys are taking shots it takes some pressure off of [Trimble], and he doesn’t have to score as much. When he drives there are not as many guys in the paint trying to steal or block a shot, and he trusts other guys to make shots.”
Edited by Austin Kleber.
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