By: Eric Myers
The Maryland lead was 22 points in the early stages of the second half before a furious Illinois rally put the Fighting Illini in a position to win. Maryland (7-3, 1-1) needed a second-chance tip from Bruno Fernando to force overtime, where sophomore Anthony Cowan led his team to a resilient victory over Illinois (6-3, 0-2) Sunday night at the State Farm Center.
Behind Cowan’s career-high 27 points, including nine in the decisive overtime period, the Terrapins were able to overcome 25 turnovers and the adversity that comes with blowing a large lead on the road in a raucous arena.
Maryland opened the game by reeling off the first ten points, which prompted a timeout from Illinois first-year head coach Brad Underwood, during which he substituted all five of his starters after just four minutes.
The Fighting Illini’s reserve players were able to spark a rally that brought Illinois within as few as four points at 22-18 after a Leron Black three-pointer.
Cowan immediately answered on the offensive side of the floor by making one of his three first-half three-point shots, which ignited an extended run for the Terps. During the 17-2 run, Maryland stretched a four point advantage to 19 behind 10 of Cowan’s 16 first half points.
The Terrapins took a 45-26 lead into halftime after shooting 73 percent from the floor and making five-of-seven three-point attempts.
Out of halftime, Maryland’s success continued as it extended its lead to 22-points with just over 17 minutes remaining in regulation.
Illinois began chipping away at the deficit, beginning with seven consecutive points by the Fighting Illini.
Needing a spark to continue to narrow the gap, junior Aaron Jordan, who came into the game shooting 66 percent from beyond the arc, began making contested shots. During an 14-4 run that spanned over three minutes, Jordan made three shots from the perimeter to cut the Maryland lead to six.
The Fighting Illini’s comeback effort was assisted by the Terrapins’ inability to make a shot from the floor for over five minutes in the second half. A layup from Cowan broke the field-goal drought with over five minutes to play in regulation.
After Illinois tied the game, the two sides struggled to separate from one another and the game came down to the waning moments.
A free-throw from Te’Jon Lucas put Illinois ahead by two. Cowan’s midrange jumper with four seconds remaining fell short and landed out of bounds.
On the ensuing inbounds, Illinois struggled to find an open man before the pass sailed out-of-bounds to the other side of the court. Because the ball was not touched, Maryland received the ball under the hoop.
With one last chance to send the game to overtime, the ball was inbounded to Kevin Huerter, 17 points, in the corner. His potential game-winning three-point shot caromed off the far side of the rim, where Fernando, 10 points, saved the game for the Terps with a tip-in with under one second remaining.
In the overtime session, both teams struggled to make any stops on the defensive end, as the teams combined for 33 points during the final five minutes.
A layup from Jordan put Illinois up 89-88 with under a minute to play. On the following possession, Cowan found Huerter in the corner for a three-point shot that put Maryland ahead, 91-88.
Illinois tied the game at 91 with 17 seconds remaining with a layup from Mark Alstork. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon drew up a play for Cowan, who dribbled out the clock before attacking toward the basket in the final seconds of the game. Alstork committed a foul on Cowan’s last-second attempt just before time expired.
Cowan knocked down the first free-throw before intentionally missing the second to make sure Illinois did not have another realistic chance with a half second remaining on the clock.
After two early Big-Ten games, the Terps will return to their non-conference slate which sees them playing the next five games at home–before conference foe Penn State comes to College Park– beginning with a game against Ohio on Thursday night.