Leading 54-49 with 8:10 remaining, and only six seconds on the shot clock, guard Anthony Cowan Jr motioned for forward Donta Scott to set a screen. Cowan utilized the pick to perfection, drawing two defenders before finding guard Eric Ayala who buried a three to extend Maryland’s lead to eight.
The sequence demonstrated Cowan’s ability to dissect the Hawkeye defense, a prevalent theme all-night long. He played with boundless energy on both ends of the floor, showcasing his speed and quick first step to complete a dominant performance. In his most impressive all-round showing of the season, Cowan finished with a career-high 31 points, six assists and six rebounds to lead the Terps to an 82-72 victory.
“Anthony Cowan was off the charts,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Efficient, fast, a pest.”
In their last meeting in Iowa City, the Terps were thoroughly outplayed in all facets, losing 67-49 dominated by guard Joe Wieskamp and center Luka Garza. The Terps defensive intensity provided few open opportunities for either player after the opening few minutes.
“We were just more locked in on our game plan, knowing what they were going to throw at us,” guard Aaron Wiggins said.
Picking up right where he left off in the last matchup, Wieskamp came out firing, making the Terps pay for going under screens. In the first eight minutes, Wieskamp tallied eight points and Iowa was 4-6 from behind the arc. The Hawkeyes adjusted their offense to become more perimeter centric, with Garza on the bench due to early foul trouble.
While the Hawkeyes adjusted, so did the Terps, increasing their defensive intensity both on the perimeter and down low. Wiggins and Darryl Morsell adjusted their approach, fighting over screens and forcing contested shots from Wieskamp.
“We just locked in, Darryl and Aaron are really good defenders,” Turgeon said. “Tonight Darryl was locked in defensively.”
Jalen Smith displayed that increased defensive intensity with 8:28 remaining in the first half, beginning an impressive 90-second stretch from the sophomore. To start, “Stix” blocked Cordell Pemsl on one end before snagging an offensive rebound and finishing an emphatic dunk which the Hawkeye lead to 23-20. On the ensuing possession, Smith swatted Connor McCaffery’s shot into the backcourt — his second of five blocks on the night.
With 2:16 remaining in the half, Cowan buried a three from the right wing to put Maryland back on top 32-30. It didn’t relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game. At the half, Cowan had 12 points on 80% shooting, as well as four assists — an efficient first half showing. But he was only getting started.
“They sat in a zone, so I tried to get aggressive and also my teammates were able to knock down shots, which made it easier for me,” Cowan said.
Sensing the Iowa defenders couldn’t keep up, Cowan continued to attack the basket at will — scoring six of the first eight points in the second half. But the Terps couldn’t quite put the Hawkeyes away. After Maryland took a 48-39 lead, Iowa executed a 13-4 run to cut the Terps lead to three.
With the Hawkeyes getting back into the game, the Terps’ defense kicked in once again. The Hawkeyes went scoreless for over three minutes and Maryland found its groove offensively rattling off a 10-0 run, catapulting the lead to 62-49.
During that three-minute stretch, Garza was on the bench once again, and Maryland used his absence to their advantage. That run proved too much for the Hawkeyes, whose only hope down the stretch was for the Terps to miss free throws. Yet Maryland continued to convert down the line and cruised to a strong ten-point victory.
When Cowan plays the way he did tonight, and the Terps play with heightened defensive intensity, Maryland is at its best. More nights like Thursday would make Maryland a frightening matchup.