By Max Marcilla
The first Big Ten conference match of the college basketball season was a stereotypical Big Ten battle: fast-paced, physical and exciting.
And if Purdue’s 80-75 win over Maryland was any indication, it should be a wild season of Big Ten basketball.
The excitement piqued in the final minute, when Maryland’s sophomore point guard Anthony Cowan scored seven straight points in a matter of seconds to cut the Purdue lead to just three.
Cowan’s heroics preceded a Maryland steal, which set up a potential game-tying possession. But Jared Nickens’ corner three clanked off the rim, and a pair of Vincent Edwards free throws sealed the win for the visitors.
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said that Kevin Huerter, who finished second on the team with 19 points, passed up the opportunity to take the last shot.
“I thought they’d expect the play to be run for me,” Huerter said. “[Nickens] is shooting really well, we have a lot of confidence in Jared… In that situation, we were using me as a decoy.”
“I don’t know if we would have gotten a wide-open look if we ran it for Kevin,” Turgeon said.
The Boilermakers got out to a hot shooting start, making 12 of their first 15 shots, including four three-point buckets. A combination of Isaac Haas, Purdue’s dominant 7-foot-2 center, and Dakota Mathias were lethal, both inside and out.
The duo tallied 30 first half points on 13-of-14 shooting, a remarkable display of post skills and spot-up shooting precision. They finished with a combined 41 points and shot 74 percent from the field.
Purdue head coach Matt Painter said the pair “set the table for us” in the first half.
Despite Purdue’s spectacular shooting start, Maryland was able to keep the game close with a late burst in the first period. A quick 7-0 run toward the end of the frame trimmed Purdue’s lead to just six. While the Terps struggled to make their shots, they were able to dominate the offensive glass, outrebounding the Boilermakers in the first half despite shooting over 30 percent worse from the field.
In need of a spark to open the second half, Turgeon elected to start his dynamic freshman duo — Darryl Morsell and Bruno Fernando — and his decision reaped benefits. Morsell sank a layup and Fernando ignited the Xfinity Center crowd with a breakaway slam.
With 18:29 left in regulation, a Kevin Huerter three-pointer gave the Terps their first lead of the evening. But it was short-lived, as Purdue regained the lead just 18 seconds later and didn’t look back.
An immediate 11-0 Purdue run put the Boilermakers back in the conductor’s seat, and a few foul calls against Maryland angered Turgeon, who was whistled for a technical foul during the scoring spurt.
Constantly having to claw its way back, Maryland was able to make it a one-possession game, but never evened the score.
“Our guys battled,” Turgeon said. “We fought back like four times. To me it’s amazing that we had a shot to tie it at the end.”
A spirited come-from-behind effort erased a 14-point first half deficit, but an exciting finish was not enough to propel Maryland past Purdue. The Terps’ loss marks their third defeat in their last four games.
The early-season Big Ten slate will continue on Sunday, when Turgeon’s squad travels to Champaign, Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini.