By: Eddie Hobbs
Aaron Wiggins was streaking along the baseline, looking to get up a tough layup as he crashed into Rasir Bolton with his feet set outside of the restricted area and picked up a charging foul–one of Maryland’s 10 turnovers in the first half.
Head coach Mark Turgeon–in frustration–threw his sports coat to his assistant as he watched his team struggle to get anything going in the first half of Maryland’s tight 66-59 win over Penn State.
Turnovers weren’t the only issue for Maryland in the first half, Penn State did a good job of slowing down the game and forcing the Terps into half-court sets. Maryland shot 38 percent from the field and 13 percent from deep in the first 20 minutes of play.
Maryland opened with a quick 12-3 lead through the inside play of Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando. The Terps didn’t even attempt a 3-pointer until 11 minutes were remaining in the half. Penn State closed that gap, and even took a 13-12 lead after a 10-0 run over three minutes.
Normally Penn State would run their offense through Lamar Stevens, who is the team’s leading scorer at 23 points per game, but it was Josh Reaves who lifted Penn State early on with 17 points, but would go scoreless in the second half.
“We need another scorer out there,” Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. “We need somebody who is going to make plays for us. We can’t just rely on Stevens for 20 Big Ten games.”
After getting in a 31-30 hole at halftime, a back-and-forth affair began in the second half. Maryland opened to go on a 9-2 run to bring the over 15,000 fans in the Xfinity Center to go wild, highlighted by Anthony Cowan’s steal and fast-break layup.
Penn State wouldn’t go away and went on its own 9-0 run to gash into Maryland’s lead and eventually take their own lead at 48-47 with 10 and a half minutes remaining.
With just under three minutes to go, Maryland continued to let Penn State hang around after Bruno Fernando air-balled a hook shot and Darryl Morsell committed a turnover.
The Nittany Lions capitalized and cut Maryland’s lead to three points after Stevens knocked down a two-point jump shot. It gave Penn State momentum at a crucial point in the game, yet Anthony Cowan, who shot just 2-of-5 in the first half and missed both 3-point shots, calmly knocked down a 3-pointer to balloon the Terps lead to six points.
“My coaches and teammates really kept their confidence in me,” Cowan said. “I saw the chance to be able to shoot one when the time was coming down and decided to run that.”
The opportunity didn’t just present itself once. Penn State answered swiftly going on a 4-0 spurt to get right back in it with 1:01 remaining in regulation.
After giving the ball up to Wiggins on the wing, Cowan was given the ball right back with Penn State’s big man John Harrar guarding him on the perimeter. Cowan went with a between-the-legs dribble, step-back deep 3-pointer that went in, practically giving Maryland its last push that it needed with little time remaining.
“He’s made a ton of those,” Turgeon said. “Maybe not a lot of them late in the game like that, but when the shot clock’s going down, he makes tough shots.”
Cowan wasn’t the only player who stepped up in the win. Jalen Smith was tasked with guarding Stevens–Penn State’s best offensive player–and held up well with a player who can create his own shot outside of the paint.
“I thought ‘Stix’ just used his length and stayed down,” Turgeon said. “I thought his first-step defense was really good today. Didn’t come forward and put a hand on him, he used his length and gave space. That’s a huge deal today, what Stix did.”
The pairing of Fernando and Smith limits what Maryland can do in terms of pushing the ball down the court, but the two of them formed a defensive duo down in the paint.
“Every game is different but tonight the big lineup was the good lineup,” Turgeon said.