Maryland basketball hadn’t scored for more than a minute, and trailed by three. The offense was uninspired and streaky for the whole game and the current possession would be one of their last chances to tie the game. It appeared that Illinois was equipped to deal with Maryland’s final effort, as the Terps almost turned the ball over. However, Anthony Cowan Jr found himself three feet outside the perimeter with 10 seconds left on the shot clock. With ice coursing through his veins, Cowan pulled up from nearly 30 feet and hit the shot of the year, tying the game for Maryland.
“The basketball gods were obviously on our side,” said Coach Mark Turgeon “It was a miracle win.”
In a Big Ten matchup defined by stingy defense, the Terps spent only 27 seconds leading the game. In the 40-minute battle, Maryland was miraculously able to come out on top thanks to the heroics of Cowan — along with a bit of luck — carrying them to a 59-58 win.
At this point of the season, starting slow and Maryland basketball seem to be synonymous. The Terps opened up the first half frantically looking for a bucket. They were ugly defensively as well, struggling to deter everything that the Illini brought offensively. Aside from a brief seven-point run in the opening ten minutes for the Terps, the away team was entirely in control reacting to the Maryland offense effortlessly.
The first half featured a characteristic slow start by Maryland. A poor shooting percentage, porous defense, and questionable calls by the referees were perfect conditions for the Fighting Illini to take a 14-point lead going into halftime.
The Illini prevented the Terps from getting comfortable on their home court as the second half started. Both sides shot under 40% from the field for the entirety of the second half giving Maryland an ample chance to keep the game close. Despite the constant struggle, the Terps never allowed the Illini lead to go over 11 points.
A clutch Darryl Morsell three with eight minutes remaining in the game cut the Illinois lead to five and made a comeback seem possible. The final eight minutes was a defensive showcase which saw only six total field goals — five of which were from Maryland. While the Illini continued to miss shots, the Terps started to make theirs. After a Jalen Smith face-up jumper and three pointer at the top of the key, the Terps cut the lead down to four and the crowd was buzzing with excitement.
“Our fans were the reason we won this game,” said Turgeon “[The fans] were into every play, every possession…”
Illinois wasted another possession and the Terps pounced on the opportunity to cut the lead even more. After catching a pass outside of the block, freshman Donta Scott made a beeline to the basket, scoring off a contested baby hook that re-energized the Terps and cut the Illini lead to two. On the other end, Illinois split their free throws, leaving it to Maryland’s offense to decide the game. Down three points with less than 30 seconds remaining, Anthony Cowan Jr. cleaned up a broken play and drained a 30 footer that tied up the game.
“Right when he got the shot, it looked perfect,” said Turgeon “I knew it was in and that’s just kinda what he does.”
The atmosphere in the Xfinity Center was infectious and all of the momentum was on the side of Maryland. With 19 seconds remaining following his clutch shot, Cowan stole the ball on the other end and was immediately fouled. A 40-minute struggle came down to one free throw shot that would give Maryland their second lead of the game.
After making his first free throw, Cowan intentionally missed his second in order to force a full court heave with time running out. Illinois missed their shot and Maryland squeaked out a win in front of their home crowd.