Before junior guard Darryl Morsell rose up several feet from behind the three point line with 4.1 seconds remaining, Maryland (23-5, 13-4 B1G) was 5-27 from behind the arc. Confidently stepping up with a hand in his face, Morsell buried Maryland’s sixth and most important three of the night to take a 74-73 lead. Throughout the season, guard Anthony Cowan had been Maryland’s clutch shot-maker, but tonight Morsell answered the call.
That shot gave Maryland its first lead since the opening two minutes of the game. It also put the finishing touches on Maryland’s 74-73 comeback win, a game in which they led for just 24 seconds. The recovery from a 16-point halftime deficit is the Terps’ largest comeback win since March 13, 2004.
The first half was all Minnesota, led by the lethal tandem of Marcus Carr and Daniel Oturu, who gave Maryland everything it could handle. They combined to score 30 of Minnesota’s 47 first-half points, imposing their will throughout.
Less than four minutes into the game, Jalen Smith picked up two fouls, forcing head coach Mark Turgeon to keep him out for a majority of the first half. With Smith out of the game, Oturu took advantage of Joshua Tomaic and Ricky Lindo Jr, forcing Tomaic into foul trouble as well. Compounding “Stix’s” foul woes, the Gophers started the game scorching from deep, hitting five of their first six threes. As a result of its shooting, Minnesota opened up an impressive 18-6 lead at the first media timeout.
However, after their impressive start from three, the Gophers began to cool off — and Maryland made a slight run to cut the deficit to 25-17 with 8:08 remaining in the first half. Just when it seemed Maryland had regained some momentum, the Gophers answered with an 8-2 run of their own, extending the lead to double-digits once again.
Sensing Maryland needed a spark offensively, head coach Mark Turgeon re-inserted Jalen Smith into the lineup with 4:15 remaining. 22 seconds later, Smith picked up his third foul, forcing Turgeon to send him to the bench once again. The Gophers led 47-31 at the half, seemingly in firm control.
Trailing early, Maryland resorted to taking perimeter jumpers on many possessions, which proved to be an ineffective strategy. At the half, Maryland finished a frigid 1-13 from behind the arc.
To start the second half, Maryland was much more efficient offensively, attacking the basket instead of settling for perimeter jumpers. Playing just four minutes in the first half, Smith came out more assertively in the second half, attacking Oturu down low.
With “Stix” finding success in the post, the Terps slowly chipped away at the Minnesota lead. However, led by Oturu and Carr, Minnesota continued to make plays in the second half and led 64-50 with 8:59 remaining. Over the ensuing three minutes, Maryland executed a 12-2 run cutting the deficit to 66-62. During that stretch, the Terps used their defense as a catalyst with consecutive transition slams from Morsell and Aaron Wiggins cutting it to four.
As they did all night, whenever Maryland responded, Minnesota answered right back with its reliable tandem. Oturu scored his 27th and 28th points of the game with 2:06 remaining, extending their lead to 72-64. Resilient as always, Maryland came right back down the floor, and guard Aaron Wiggins buried a three from straight on, part of a strong 16-point performance.
Tightening up defensively, the Terps continued to chip away at the comeback as Cowan sunk two free throws to cut the deficit to 72-69 with 45 seconds remaining. On the ensuing inbounds, Maryland forced a turnover, setting up an opportunity for the potential tie. Getting a good look, Jalen Smith rimmed out a three from the right wing and Gabe Kalscheur grabbed the rebound. Kalscheur, after being fouled, only hit one at the line, extending the Gophers lead to four with 39 seconds remaining.
As the game further tightened, Cowan looked for a quick basket, but was stuffed by Kalscheur on a driving layup. After being fouled, Carr missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Terps hustled down the floor once again. This time, Jalen Smith converted a dunk, cutting the deficit to 73-71 with 14 seconds remaining. Once again, the Terps fouled and Kalscheur missed at the line giving Maryland an opportunity to win or tie the game.
With an opportunity to tie, Cowan raced up the floor and found himself behind the arc hounded by Oturu. Smartly not forcing a three where he was 0-8 on the night, Cowan passed to Wiggins searching for an open shot. Unable to generate a good look, Wiggins found Morsell who served as the hero for the Terps at Williams Arena.
On a night where Maryland wasn’t at its best, the Terps proved resilient once again finding a way to win, stepping up in the pivotal moments down the stretch.