Coming into the B1G/ ACC Challenge matchup, there were two things head coach Mark Turgeon wanted to focus on: his team’s shooting ability and combating the Virginia defense. The Terrapins started out the season with an underwhelming shooting performance, specifically from behind the three-point line.
Throughout their first five games, Maryland failed to shoot better than 30 percent from behind the arc. The breakthrough came during the Marshall game last week when the Terps sunk nine out of their 13 threes. Finally, the Terps were thought to have found their rhythm just in time before they welcomed the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers.
“They [Virginia] have a tremendous defense.” Turgeon said Tuesday. “They have good size and length at all of their positions. I think that has made their defense even better.”
The Cavaliers stifling defense allowed 49.3 points per game before Wednesday’s top-25 tilt. The main factor behind their success is the experience of the players, with four starters returning from last season– all of whom pose as both defensive obstacles or offensive weapons.
“You can’t speed them up.” Turgeon said. “Our guys are aware of that, but we just have to be efficient.”
Turgeon proved to be right as the Maryland defense couldn’t seem to contain junior guard Kyle Guy. The Indianapolis native finished with 18 points and shot above 45 percent from the field and from the perimeter. Guy received the 2018 ACC Tournament MVP and All-ACC First Team last season after averaging 14.1 points last season.
Maryland played man-to-man all night, which Guy beat for 15 points in the first half alone. In the second half, the Terrapins started switching on the picks that were frequently set for Guy, which helped hold Guy to three points in the second half. Still, the damage was done and Virginia’s lead grew to 17 early on after halftime.
Maryland also notably didn’t defend the paint like they had in prior games, with monstrous dunks coming every few minutes or so from Virginia’s role players. UVA also challenged Maryland on the boards when it came to offensive rebounds and second chance points.
But the thing that stuck out the most was the scoring absence of Anthony Cowan, who has gotten off to a shaky start for most of the season. Despite scoring in double digits in all previous games, the guard hasn’t been playing up to his normal caliber and it showed against UVA.
He made only five out of his 12 shots and hit one 3-pointer the entire night. He also committed four turnovers in comparison to Virginia’s whole team only having two, which were offensive fouls. Though on paper it didn’t seem impressive, he still finished with 15 points.
“The first foul had everything to do with it. I thought it was a block.” said Turgeon on Cowan’s challenging night. Just two and half minutes into the game, Cowan was called for a charge after driving to the basket.
“I thought it had a lot to do with everything.” Turgeon continued. “The way they [Virginia] run their offense, they were trying to wear Anthony out.”
Cowan snagged all sorts of awards and mentions last season including making the Third Team All-Big Ten, Big Ten All-Defensive Team while leading the Terps team in scoring average, assists, steals, minutes per game and free throw percentage.
The question relatively early in the season becomes is it too much for the junior guard to take on himself?
“We’re only going to get better. We’ve already gotten better.” Coach Turgeon said. He attributed the lack of offensive activity to the five rotating freshman who are still shaking off their college debut jitters. “We just lost to a great team tonight.”
The Terps look to bounce back this Saturday evening when they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions at home to open Big Ten play.