It has been a rough month for the Maryland Terrapins so far.
The team travelled to play Michigan State and Ohio State — two of the top five team in the Big Ten — and got blown away each time. To make matters worse, the Terps had a win ripped away from them at the last second against Michigan, making for their third loss in four games.
After jumping out to a double-digit lead against Minnesota, it was starting to look like something similar was going to happen again, as Minnesota had taken a three-point lead to start the second half.
But Maryland did something it didn’t do against Michigan, and that was finish.
Maryland opened up a 21-2 run against the Gophers, and with double figure scoring efforts from four players, the Terps finished the night with a resounding 77-66 victory.
“Great win for us,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “We did a lot of great things. We shared the ball, we’re getting better and we responded. We were mentally tough tonight, especially in the second half.”
The combination of sophomores Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan with senior Michal Cekovsky that put Maryland over the top in the second half. Cowan, who didn’t score a point in the first half, finished with 15 points and a career-high 10 assists to go with six rebounds.
“Our offense was really clicking in the second half,” Turgeon said. “And we were able to build the lead because we were really good defensively for the first 10 minutes of the second half to get it up to 16 or 17 — I don’t know what it was. And we were just good enough to maintain it. We did some really nice things.”
Maryland (15-6, 4-4) led by seven with three minutes left in the first half, but a 6-0 run, fueled by three turnovers, allowed Minnesota (14-7, 3-5) to cut Maryland’s lead to 29-28 at the break.
“We didn’t like the way we ended the first [half] at all,” Huerter said. “We kept talking about it, when we built it to eight or nine, we wanted to get up to 15 or 16 and not be content with where we’re at. That’s something we talked about in the locker room. We came out with a lot better energy and started to guard better, too.”
Huerter, who didn’t score his first field goal of the game until 10:31 left in the first half, finished with a game-high 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Cekovsky had 17 points, including back-to-back dunks in the second half, while freshman guard Darryl Morsell added 13 points and five rebounds.
Minnesota was held to 35.9 percent from the floor, and the credit goes to Maryland’s defense. They held the Gophers to 10 shots in the first half, and after Minnesota took a 32-29 lead in to start the second half, it scored just two points in nearly seven minutes.
Jordan Murphy, Minnesota’s leading scorer, led the Gophers with 19 points, but most of his damage came long after Maryland had the game in hand. Maryland held Murphy in check in the first half, limiting him to 2-of-8 from the floor.
That kid’s a load, man,” Turgeon said of Murphy. “Nineteen points on 17 shots. He had a hard time scoring over Ceko tonight.”
Maryland led by as many as 17 in the second half, led by Cowan and Cekovsky, who had two dunks and two blocks in a 73 second span. Minnesota brought the lead down to 11 with five minutes left to play but by then, the game was firmly in Maryland’s control.
The win puts the Terps back above .500 in the Big Ten. It also gives the team a 12-1 record at home, which is second-best behind Purdue in the conference.
Maryland will be back on the road to play Indiana on Jan. 22, hoping to end a three-game road losing streak before hosting Michigan State. Tipoff against the Hoosiers will be at 7 p.m.
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