EVANSTON, IL- When things are spiraling out of control for the No. 17 Maryland Terrapins, they usually can rely on senior point guard Anthony Cowan. But on a rare off-night for the Bowie native, it was the Terps other preseason All-Big Ten player who led the charge.
Sophomore Jalen Smith took authority in the second half, scoring 21 points en route to a career-high 25. After his last bucket, a catch-and-shoot three off a Cowan dart, Smith let out an audible yell to the stands. Smith’s efforts powered Maryland to a second half comeback and the Terps first road win of the season, 77-66.
“I was just getting into it with the crowd, you know. Just a little friendly warfare, but it was just a fun night,” said Smith on the emotion he showed. “I used to do it a lot in high school, but coming into my freshman year I tried to mature more and not do it because my parents told me I look like a fool doing it. But it just brought out the emotion…and it was awesome.”
Maryland’s three-point struggles have inhibited them from becoming an elite offense and those woes continued in the early stages of Tuesday night’s game. Despite the inaccuracy the Terps kept firing, shooting 17 threes in the first half alone. They had two points in the paint in the first half.
The second half was a different story for the Terps on offense. Using their clear athleticism advantage, Maryland was constantly attacking downhill. By the 12:36 mark of the second half, the Terps were in the bonus and they took full advantage of that going 17-19 from the free throw line in second half.
“You stop the clock, (the) game stops, lengthens the game, we’re not fouling at the other end,” said head coach Mark Turgeon on the importance of getting to the charity stripe. “Once our guys got a little better body movement, we were really hard to guard, so that was huge. Guys stepped up and made them.”
While the offense struggled, the typically robust defense was initially exposed. The Wildcats converted on four of their first five shots on their way to a 40 point first half. The sophomore duo of Miller Kopp and Pete Nance combined for 20 of the 40, scoring both inside and out. Maryland’s energy on that end was just not the same, as they trailed 40-26 after one.
The Terps tightened up the defensive intensity in the second half, often times suffocating the Wildcats in the half-court with their speed. Northwestern was held to under 40 percent shooting while coughing the ball up eight times.
“Paralysis by analysis. We worked so hard getting ready for these guys…maybe we did too much, instead of just playing,” said Turgeon of the first half defensive efforts. “Second half, our offense got our defense going.”
On the verge of their worst loss of the season, Turgeon knew he had to rally his squad at halftime. Giving an impassioned speech, one that the players seemed to enjoy, he told the team that the second half is “going to change our season”. When his players all smiled, he knew they were ready.
“Coach Turgeon…he said he wanted us to play ‘streetball’ and that just fired everybody up cause everybody knows in ‘streetball’, you’re just playing and not really worried about anything so that gave us a lot of confidence,” Smith said with a grin on his face.
“Just having fun. It’s nothing different honestly,” said Aaron Wiggins on his definition of ‘streetball’. “We had the passion out there in the second half and that’s all it was.”
Call it ‘streetball’ or just playing hard. Whatever Maryland did in the second half worked to near perfection as they blitzed the Wildcats. Down the stretch, the ball was pinging from side-to-side as players knocked down open shots. Their 51 point second half, the most points they’ve scored in a half since opening night, pushed the Terps over the top to pick up that coveted road win.
Another test away from the Xfinity Center awaits Maryland on Sunday when they travel to Assembly Hall to take on Indiana. But for now, Maryland can enjoy this one and no longer see a goose egg in the road wins column.
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