After two tough losses away from the Xfinity Center, No. 21 Maryland (17-5, 8-3 Big Ten) returned home to beat Northwestern (12-9, 3-7 Big Ten), 70-52, behind strong performances from their big man duo of Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith.
Fernando registered his 13th double-double of the season, scoring a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. When Cowan hit the bench with foul trouble in the second half, the Terps didn’t skip a beat, running their offense through Fernando and Smith.
“We wanted to get the ball to Bruno and Jalen on the block,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’ve been trying to play through Bruno a lot, with Anthony [Cowan Jr.] sitting for most of the second half and it really helped us.”
Fernando also ended his night committing no fouls, something not too common for big men these days.
Maryland started Tuesday’s game strong, as we haven’t seen them do over the past couple of games. They jumped out to a 13-4 within the first five minutes and would never give up that lead for the rest of the game.
Within the first nine minutes Northwestern was shooting 3-15 from the field and they also had a stretch of 7:21 where they went 0-12 from the field. This allowed Maryland to extend their lead to 29-15 with 3:02 left in the half. Maryland would head into the half with another double-digit lead, up 33-22.
This is something we have seen from Maryland before, when they were up 33-15 at the half against Wisconsin and 34-30 in their last game against Illinois. However, poor second half performances allowed both teams to come back in the game. That was not the case tonight.
The main reason Maryland was able to hold off Northwestern Tuesday was their stout defensive performance. The Terps were able to hold the Wildcats to 31 percent shooting from the field and 22 percent from three.
The Wildcats had been averaging just over 69 points a game, and Maryland held them to 52 points.
“We were terrific on defense,” Turgeon said. “We really guarded them, they had trouble shooting the ball but I think we had a lot to do with it. We were running guys off lines, we knew who shooters and our transition defense was a little better.”
Jalen Smith started his night against Northwestern missing his first three shots and it was looking like the freshman was going to struggle the whole game. Then, something clicked later in the first half and he went on to make five of his next seven shots while ending the game with 14 points and nine rebounds.
“Since the Michigan State game, he’s got like three or four extra weight room lifts in,” Turgeon said. “It’s coming. It takes time and he looked really confident out there, especially in the second half.”
Anthony Cowan ended the first half with three fouls and started the second half on the bench, but Maryland had nothing to worry about.
Turgeon made it known that he wanted to run his offense through Fernando with Cowan on the bench, and that is exactly what they did. Fernando showed off his strength and even his passing, guiding Maryland to a 41-26 lead with Cowan sitting.
Cowan would check back in at the 13:43 mark and Maryland’s lead just grew from there. Cowan only saw two minutes on the floor in the second half before picking up his fourth foul, but in that time Maryland was able to take a 46-29 lead with 11:56 left and Turgeon was comfortable enough to led Cowan sit for the rest of the game.
Cowan ended his night with eight points, four assists and three rebounds.
“He is just a great leader,” sophomore guard Darryl Morsell said. “He kept the freshmen up. Eric struggled in the first half and Anthony kept talking to him, making sure he kept his confidence up.”
Morsell and Eric Ayala also ended with eight points each, helping seal Maryland’s eighth win in the Big Ten this year while snapping a two-game losing skid.
The No. 21 Terps now travel to Madison to take on No. 24 Wisconsin on Friday night at 9 p.m. The Terps took down Wisconsin 64-60 on Jan. 14 in College Park.
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