The The No. 5 Maryland Terrapins (6-0) faced their first real challenge of the season on Thursday morning when they were taken to the wire by Temple (4-1). The game was tied with 3:14 to go but a career day from Anthony Cowan and some key buckets by Eric Ayala helped push the Terps to a 76-69 victory. Here are my takeaways on the Terps biggest win of the year so far.
Anthony Cowan still has that killer instinct
Just this week, I wrote about how the Terps have become less dependent on Cowan and his scoring has dipped as a result. But his team desperately needed points today, the senior stepped up and delivered. He accounted for 10 of the Terps 29 in the first half and he was even better in the second. He scored the first seven points of the half for Maryland to keep them in the game. And with the score tied with just under three minutes remaining, Cowan drained a three-pointer to give the Terps a lead they would never look back from.
In the offseason, a lot of the chatter was about Cowan and how the team would go as far as he would take them. And while he hasn’t had too exert too much energy so far, today showed why Cowan was named to the preseason All-Big Ten first team. He finished with a career-high 30 points to keep Maryland’s undefeated season alive.
Turgeon finally shortens the rotation
Throughout the season, head coach Mark Turgeon has routinely used the depth that Maryland possesses. In the first half, 11 Maryland players saw the floor and a lineup of Ayala, Hakim Hart, Darryl Morsell, Donta Scott and Makhi Mitchell played for over four consecutive minutes.
But as the Terps finally had a losable game in the second half, Turgeon decided to stick with his core guys. Only eight players saw the court for the Terps in the second half (including Ricky Lindo who played a mere 70 seconds). Meanwhile, Cowan played the entire half while sophomore Aaron Wiggins only sat for a minute.
This is likely a sign of things to come. It’s a luxury for Turgeon that he can get some of the younger guys minutes in these pre-conference play games. But Thursday showed that he needs to rely on his go-to guys when it matters. When they face better foes, I doubt Turgeon will have the patience or trust to continue going eleven deep.
Donta Scott shows his worth
While he didn’t have the gaudiest stats today, Donta Scott may have been the second most valuable Terp. As Maryland came out of the gates slow again, it was Scott who brought the energy off the bench.
Scott snagged some key rebounds early and played with intensity on the bottom of the 3-2 zone. As a result, he had the highest +/- of any Terp in the first half at +7. Turgeon used him to start the second half and he continued to be solid as Maryland cut into the lead. His biggest play was a three pointer from the left wing that gave the Terps a three point lead with less than 10 minutes to play.
As Turgeon struggles to find a consistent starting five, it was Scott who made the best imprint today while Ricky Lindo and Makhi Mitchell had rather forgettable games. It remains to be seen if he is Maryland’s long-term option at the four, but he made a strong case today.
Maryland’s zone bends but it didn’t break
Defensively, it was somewhat of a mixed bag for the Terps today. They did a good job creating turnovers, manufacturing 15. They also forced the Owls into some tough shots as Aaron McKie’s group shot only 34 percent.
But the Owls shot the ball from three very effectively, hitting 11 at a 35 percent clip. They also killed the Terps on the offensive glass, snagging 14 rebounds.
Three-pointers are the great equalizer in college hoops and are a major key in any upset. By playing zone, the Terps are vulnerable to opponents splashing threes on them and on Thursday the Owls almost hit enough to pull-off the upset.
There are some above average outside shooting teams in this tournament and it’s worth monitoring how much zone Tugreon deploys moving forward.
Maryland advances to the second round of the Orlando Invitational and they will take on the winner of Texas A&M and Harvard on Friday at 11:30 a.m.
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