By: Eric Myers
Both Maryland and Wisconsin came into Sunday afternoon’s game on extended losing streaks, looking to find their spot in the middle of the Big Ten standings.
Maryland, losers of three straight and five of its last six, was just coming off a difficult week where they played the two preeminent powers of the conference, No. 6 Michigan State and No. 3 Purdue.
The Terrapins (16-9, 5-7)–behind their two sophomore standouts, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter– snapped their losing skid with a 68-63 win over the Wisconsin Badgers (10-15, 3-9) on Sunday afternoon at the Xfinity Center.
Cowan and Huerter, who are undoubtedly atop the opposition’s scouting report on a gamely basis, scored 42 of Maryland’s 68 points, including the final eight points as Maryland took the lead and closed out the victory.
“Cowan and Huerter, knowing coming in, were going to be a handful in terms of tight moments. They’re going to hit big shots.” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said.
Maryland began the game by scoring just four points in the first seven minutes. Luckily for the Terrapins and their home crowd, Wisconsin squandered the opportunity to take an early foothold on the game. With the Badgers inability to capitalize on Maryland’s early scoring woes, the Terps were primed for an offensive outbreak.
After a three-point shot from Wisconsin’s Aleem Ford extended its lead to 21-16 with 7:44 remaining in the half, Maryland’s offense and defense clicked simultaneously. The Maryland defense held Wisconsin to just two points the remainder of the half.
On the offensive end of the floor, Maryland converted difficult shots on the interior, including a difficult layup through the foul by seldom-used big man Sean Obi.
Just before the first half buzzer, as the Badgers were looking to take the final shot, Cowan jumped a passing lane and made a breakaway layup with six seconds remaining to cap off a 17-2 run and push the Maryland halftime advantage to 33-23.
Wisconsin, whose losing streak now extends to five consecutive games, battled back into the game during the second half, after trailing by 10 at halftime, behind 13 of Ethan Happ’s 18 points on the night.
The Badgers chipped away at the Maryland lead, eventually tying the game at 42 after another three-point shot from Ford with 11 minutes to play. Maryland, who was in a similar position just one week prior when they held a 13 point halftime lead over sixth-ranked Michigan State, once again relinquished a double digit halftime lead.
The two teams traded scores–most often from the free throw line, where the teams combined to shoot 26 second half attempts after just four in the first half– as neither team’s lead grew above two possessions until the final minute of the game.
“When my top guys aren’t playing well, which they weren’t at the start and the start of the second half, it’s not like I have a lot of guys to put in,” head coach Mark Turgeon said, citing the depleted roster he has because of injuries. “So you just gotta stick with them.”
With the score tied at 60 with a minute and a half remaining, Huerter found himself in a congested lane late in the shot clock. As the defenders crowded him, the sophomore was able to work himself free and convert the layup to give the team a two point lead.
On the next offensive possession, after Maryland came away with a defensive stop, Turgeon called a timeout and put the ball in Huerter’s hands once again. The sophomore drove baseline, faked out a defender before hitting another difficult opportunity to push the lead to four with 27 seconds remaining.
Wisconsin’s freshman guard Brad Davidson instilled some doubt in the game, with a three-point shot from the top of the key with 10 seconds remaining.
Cowan, who had a game-high 23 points, made two free throws before a game-clinching block from Dion Wiley on Davison’s quick layup attempt.
“Obviously we’ve been in a lot of close games, so it was important to pull this one out,” Cowan said. “When you go on a losing streak, it is kind of hard to win your first game so I’m happy we pulled this one out.”