By Eric Myers
The smallest player in Maryland’s starting lineup stepped up in the game’s biggest during Friday night’s 76-61 season-opening win over Stony Brook.
While on the bench, Anthony Cowan saw Maryland’s once 20 point lead descend to 12 with four minutes to play. After a timeout, Cowan checked in and scored four points during a quick 7-0 spurt to seal the win for the Terrapins.
In similar situations a season ago, Cowan would have deferred to Melo Trimble, a player with a propensity for delivering in clutch situations during his three years at Maryland. With Trimble now pursuing his NBA dream, Maryland is in need of a go-to player when the game is hanging in the balance, and Cowan could be just that.
In addition to his 15 points, including nine in the second half, Cowan dished out 4 assists with just two turnovers, on a night where Maryland, as a team, struggled to handle the ball with 15 miscues.
Cowan, who is looking to build off of a strong freshman campaign, is embracing his new role as a leader on the team. He noted that the biggest strides he made during the offseason was his leadership and shooting with more confidence.
During the offseason, the Bowie, Maryland native competed in the Nike Pro-Am Kenner League and was selected as one of 21 camp counselors at the Under Armour All-American Camp. During this time, Cowan used his standing on the team to prepare him for his perspective role on Maryland’s roster.
“For the summer leagues specifically, I was really the man on my team,” Cowan said. “Not saying I’m the man on this team, but I’m just more of a primary scorer. It was also a young team, so I got to lead and that was very helpful for me.”
While Cowan posted a 48 percent shooting clip from beyond the three-point arch, it was clear that he was more comfortable attacking toward the rim, shown by his relatively low volume of three point attempts (just over two per game). Adding a consistent three-point shot would prevent defenders from sagging off of him, which would open up driving lanes for the point guard.
Cowan’s impact on any given game will extend further than improved shooting and leadership on the court. He is also often lauded as one of the premier on the ball defenders in the Big Ten conference. Tasked with shutting down the opposition’s primary ball handler, Cowan led all Big Ten freshman in steals a season ago.
Trimble, a three-year starter in his own right, often found himself with the ball in his hands in a screen and roll play late in the shot clock. Trimble accounted for 71 percent of the ball screens for Maryland a season ago where he flourished as a scorer and facilitator.
This season, Mark Turgeon estimates that the ball screen offense will be more evenly dispersed and projected that Cowan will see more opportunities in that role.
“I’m very comfortable [in ball screen situations],” Cowan said. “I’m learning it day-by-day and I think I’m getting better each day.”
Coming off of the ball screen, Cowan will have the opportunity to be a catalyst for the Maryland offense both in scoring and assisting. The 6-foot point guard was tied for the lead in assists per game at 3.7, as a freshman.
“My message to Anthony is: make the right decisions,” Turgeon said. “So ‘If you’re open, you shoot it. If you’ve got the chance to pass it, read the situation,’ because we have a read and react offense. If Anthony does that, we’re a much better offensive team.”