By Max Marcilla
The final four seconds of Maryland’s 68-67 loss to Michigan were symbolic of the entire evening in Ann Arbor.
The Terps were moments away from stealing a win on the road against a ranked team. With 3.5 seconds remaining, Kevin Huerter, who had struggled with his shot throughout the course of the game, hit the biggest shot of Maryland’s season: a three-point heave to put the Terps up by one.
The momentum was short-lived.
The Wolverines found a hole in Maryland’s inbounds defense, forced a pass to Muhammad-Ali Abdul-Rahkman and the senior drew a shooting foul. And after two successful free throws and a Huerter full-court miss, the Terps dropped their third straight road game.
Although the final two possessions will be the memorable ones from this game, it was a barrage of three-point shots by the Wolverines that allowed the 23rd-ranked team in the nation to grind out a victory.
After the Terps entered the half with a 10-point lead, the Wolverines rallied back, catching fire from downtown and taking control of the game. The Wolverines hit 8 of their first 10 three-point attempts in the second half. Jordan Poole and Moritz Wagner combined to make seven threes, and the Wolverines’ comeback was complete after they made five three-pointers in as many possessions.
Perimeter defense has been a problem for Maryland throughout Big Ten play. Against Michigan State and Ohio State, the Terps allowed their opponent to make 57 and 59 percent of its three-point shots, respectively.
Despite the Michigan shooting clinic, Anthony Cowan Jr. kept the Terps in the race. The undersized point guard, who has the word ‘AMBITIOUS’ tattooed on his chest showed that toughness all evening. He made an acrobatic reverse lay-in down the stretch and, with under a minute left, hit a crucial three-pointer to cut the Michigan lead to two.
Not only was Cowan Jr. effective as a scorer — he scored a game-high 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting — but he orchestrated the Terp offense with poise and quickness. He was the passer on a pair of outlet passes — one to Kevin Huerter, another to Darryl Morsell — that resulted in Maryland layups.
But without the injured Justin Jackson, Ivan Bender or Dion Wiley yet again, Maryland struggled finding a reliable counterpart to Cowan Jr. Huerter only had six points until he hit a pair of threes in Maryland’s late comeback attempt. Freshman Bruno Fernando, Maryland’s third-leading scorer, recorded just five points in 18 minutes.
For the third time in their four Big Ten seasons, the Terps have suffered a three-game road losing streak. This time, all three losses came at the hands of an AP Top 25 ranked foe. Maryland will return home to host the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Thursday, needing a win to keep pace with the other ‘second-tier’ teams in the Big Ten conference.