Tuesday night’s battle in Piscataway had major implications for both the No. 9 Maryland Terrapins and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Terps had a chance to clinch their first Big Ten regular season title, while Rutgers was fighting for its tournament life.
And on Tuesday it was the Scarlet Knights who came out hot and delivered the Terps their second straight loss. Here are my takeaways.
Maryland’s defense disappears again
For most of the season, Maryland’s calling card has been their defense. They had allowed 73 points only twice in their first 26 games. But in the last four, opposing teams have hit that mark each game.
Rutgers got off to a hot start, hitting four of their first eight shots from deep en route to 35 first-half points. Junior guard Jacob Young, who missed the first contest between the two teams, was on fire early. He hit his first four shots, including three threes to ignite the Rutgers faithful.
Despite Rutgers’ shooting, the Terps only trailed by six at the half. But the Scarlet Knights were even better in the final 20 minutes. A 9-2 run capped by a Ron Harper Jr. transition three gave Rutgers a 44-31 lead as Mark Turgeon took a timeout.
Maryland’s defensive struggles can be pinpointed to opposing teams making shots, but their defensive intensity does not look the same. The team could be fatigued, playing four games in a nine-day stretch. Whatever is plaguing the Terps defensively, they will need to figure it out sooner rather than later if they want to win a share of the Big Ten title.
“We can definitely fix it,” senior Anthony Cowan said. “We got a lot of room for improvement. But, we’ll get there. We’ll get there for sure.”
The Terps surrendered 42 points in the paint, which is a season-high.
Rutgers dominates the glass
Aside from defensive lapses, rebounding has been the other constant in the Terps’ recent struggles. Against Michigan State, they were outrebounded by six. Against Ohio State, they were outrebounded by nine.
In New Jersey on Tuesday the Scarlet Knights dominated them on the boards, out rebounding them 42-26. 12 of those came on the offensive glass.
Entering the game, the Terps had a +4.4 rebound differential but Rutgers seemingly smashed them in the mouth from the tip. Rediscovering that toughness will be key for the Terps down the stretch.
“We just have to start attacking the boards more,” sophomore big man Jalen Smith said. “We’ve lost that mentality.”
Anthony Cowan finds his touch
A silver lining from Tuesday was the play of Cowan. The senior was in a shooting slump, shooting 40 percent from the field in the past three games. He was 0-14 from three dating back to February 18th.
But Cowan got out of the gates fast. He drained a three-pointer in the first two minutes, to give the Terps his first field goal and effectively end his shooting slump.
Cowan kept his group in it early, hitting an array of jump shots while attacking the rim. The senior appeared visibly frustrated in some of the previous losses, but tonight he was attempting to garner a comeback effort.
The comeback fell short, but Cowan scored 19 points on 6-13 shooting. As he enters his senior day on Sunday and the final stretch of his career, it’s abundantly clear the Terps will need him to be at his best.
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