Maryland sophomore guard Anthony Cowan made his way down the court against the Wisconsin Badgers down by two, and a familiar feeling began to creep into the Xfinity Center.
As the losers of three straight games in the past two weeks, Maryland has found itself in position to close games against superior opponents. Those hopes have turned sour in the second half, as miscues and mistakes have derailed Maryland’s chances at coming away with wins.
The Terps found themselves in a similar situation against the Badgers after they squandered a 10-point lead and were on the brink of losing four straight.
Cowan waited until the final seconds on the shot clock to take his shot — a three-pointer at the top of the key that put the Terps back on top by a point. And with the combined effort of fellow sophomore guard Kevin Huerter, Maryland got the closing effort it has been searching for all of January.
Cowan and Huerter scored a combined 42 points — including 23 of Maryland final 28 — to hold off the Badgers and break the team’s three-game losing streak with a 68-63 victory.
“We weren’t great at all times today, but I think we figured it out at the end,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I think…we figured it out playing through Anthony and Kevin. Those two were terrific getting to the rim and making shots. It wasn’t pretty all the time, but I give Wisconsin credit for playing well.”
Cowan led Maryland (16-9, 5-7) with 23 points, while Huerter had 19 and six rebounds. Cowan also hit four free throws in the final 10 seconds to help secure the win when Wisconsin (10-15, 3-9) cut Maryland’s lead down to one possession.
“I knew I had to make plays so my teammates gave me the ball in the right spots so I was able to hit big shots,” Cowan said.
Huerter and Cowan scored 15 of the team’s final 17 points. After a three from Wisconsin’s Aleem Ford tied the score 60-60 with 2:39 left to play, Huerter scored back-to-back jump shots to put Maryland back up by four.
“They just fed off each other and called plays for each other,” Turgeon said of Huerter and Cowan. “Kevin made some big-time plays and Anthony’s three behind the ball-screen was huge.”
Huerter said the balance between him and Cowan is what the Terps need to win close games.
“I think guys are looking more and more for us to make plays,” he said. “Someone said, ‘Anthony and Kevin learned to coexist,’ and I don’t think it’s coexisting. I think we should both be able to get ours and set each other up as much as we can. Today, I think was a good balance of us.”
Against Michigan State and Purdue, Maryland started out strong and aggressive on offense. The opposite happened against Wisconsin. Although Maryland kept the score close for much of the first half, it trailed by as many as eight points with 9:24 left before the break.
Once again, Cowan and Huerter got their team rolling. A layup from Cowan and a three-pointer from Huerter ignited and 18-4 run to close the half, and by the time Cowan scored his fifth basket with six seconds left, Maryland had a 33-23 lead.
Despite the effort from Huerter and Cowan, Maryland still needed help to win the game. Down by three, Wisconsin had a chance to tie the game with nine seconds left. Rather than taking a shot from the three-point line, freshman guard Brad Davison drove to the basket, which was blocked by senior Dion Wiley.
“That was a miscommunication on our part,” Davison said. “I take full responsibility for that, that’s one of my jobs out there. We weren’t really on the same page by the time I got into the lane. There wasn’t a whole lot of time left for me to do anything.”
“I was happy for Dion,” Turgeon said. “Something positive for Dion is and I thought he made a couple nice plays offensively. For something positive to happen for him is great and will help him the rest of the way.”
The win will give Maryland some momentum moving into February. Turgeon said it should give his team some confidence to make a run to end the season, starting with traveling to Penn State on Feb. 7.
“Our guys have been so resilient,” Turgeon said. “What they’re doing is pretty amazing while we’re down three starters. But we keep battling and we haven’t embarrassed ourselves in a long time. For them, I hope we have success down the stretch because they’ve been resilient and have continued to work.”
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