Following gut-wrenching back to back losses, the urgency of Maryland men’s basketball was palpable in their season finale against Michigan. Their persistence translated to a win as Will Clark, Anthony Cowan, and Travis Valmon received a proper sendoff Sunday afternoon in a demanding 83-70 victory.
After claiming their 24th win of the season in dominant fashion, the Terps now hold a share of a Big Ten title and much needed momentum as the post season awaits.
“Arguably the best Big Ten ever, the deepest Big Ten ever, for our guys to do what they did it’s special,” said head coach Mark Turgeon.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday’s senior game against Michigan.
After a four day hiatus, the Terps defensive intensity has been recaptured
Defense, the staple of Maryland basketball thus far, had been lost in the late season woes that have persisted in the Terps previous four matchups. Maryland played four games in nine days, and with each game, its depleted energy levels were noticeable on both sides of the court.
“I think we were fresh physically, I think we were fresh mentally,” said Turgeon. “We did some defensive drills that really made us play hard and it showed today.”
With four games of rest before their battle against Michigan, the Terps had time to regroup and get back to basics — and their efforts reflected on the court and with the final score. Maryland forced nine turnovers and out rebounded the Wolverines, not allowing a single second chance point. For the Terps, defense is everything. As a tone setter and means of creating a high speed offense, a solid defensive unit needs to show up every night. If it does, Maryland can compete with anyone.
The Terps have yet to play a full 40 minutes
After a tremendous first half defined by an efficient, fluid offense, the Terps jumped to a 13 point lead at halftime. Things quickly went wrong in the first 10 minutes of the second half, as the Wolverines closed the gap to just three points.
Part of the reason for Michigan’s run was Maryland’s struggles holding onto the ball. Maryland had been particularly careful with the ball in the first 20 minutes, only giving up two turnovers.
In the first nine minutes of the second half, the Terps coughed up the ball nine times. Michigan had been playing aggressively all game, only this time the Terps felt the pressure. While Maryland eventually pulled away, the Wolverines’ run raises questions regarding Maryland’s potential in the postseason. Against more formidable opponents, a 30 minute performance will rarely translate to wins.
“We were great defensively for about 20 minutes, then we weren’t any good for about 12” said Turgeon.
Anthony Cowan is back
Since his otherworldly last minute performance at Michigan State, Cowan has not quite been himself. Shooting an abysmal 31% from the field in the past four games, fans were eager to see him end his story at Maryland on a positive note. Fittingly, a shooting sleeve appeared to amend his troubles. Cowan, on his way to a 20 point and eight assist performance, did his damage in the midrange area and around the basket.
“I just took what the defense gave me,” said Cowan. “I [saw] open shots and I was able to take them.”
A more cerebral 40 minutes, both in scoring and setting up his teammates, paid off. Cowan made the most of his last time laced up at the Xfinity Center. Amidst the doubt, hype and everything in between, he delivered when his services were needed one more time in front of the home crowd.