In basketball, a powerful guard/big pairing is almost always a handful to plan for. Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith are exactly that — and recently they have been showing it. The two have earned Big Ten player of the week honors in consecutive weeks and are stepping up as the postseason nears. Furthermore, they have been the catalyst to numerous wins, and are settling into form. Maryland is now on a four game winning streak and, with Smith and Cowan firing, should look to improve with every new contest.
In Maryland’s last game against Iowa, Cowan dropped 31 points in a crucial win. The senior played with confidence and it showed — picking apart the Hawkeyes with ease.
“His leadership, in the locker room, in the dorms, it’s what you want,” said Head Coach Mark Turgeon
For the Terps next opponent in Rutgers, confidence on the offensive end could be pivotal in the outcome. The Scarlet Knights have easily been the biggest surprise of the Big Ten. As a team that has sustained 13 consecutive losing seasons, it seemed as though Rutgers was destined for mediocrity this year. Instead, the Scarlet Knights are on pace to end their drought and earn their first NCAA Tournament berth since 1991. Their newfound success can be attributed to their imposing defense. Rutgers sits at 18th in the nation when it comes to points allowed and are 2nd in the Big Ten in rebounds per game.
Last time these two sides faced off, Maryland won in dominating fashion in Piscataway. The Scarlet Knights were a very different team then and put up little resistance in their previous meeting.
Rutgers’ defense will undoubtedly test this year’s streaky Maryland offense. Guard Geo Baker may be the biggest pest. The quick junior loves to play defense and leads the team in steals. However, he hasn’t been an offensive threat — shooting 28% from the field last month.
Rutgers has plenty of weapons, though. Baker’s back court running mate, Ron Harper Jr., does much of the scoring. The sophomore guard leads the team with 11 points per contest. Despite Harper’s high volume scoring, he can be inconsistent as well. Still, Rutgers recovers the shots it misses proficiently, as the Scarlet Knights are second in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds.
Despite offensive potential, Rutgers skill is very much grounded in its defense, a point of emphasis for Maryland’s offense.
“They’re really fast one through four and they have rim protectors at the five,” said Turgeon. “They’re very active and they aren’t afraid to switch screens.”
The Scarlet Knights’ defense is imposing but they have only won on the road once this season. Meanwhile, the Terps are undefeated at home, and with Cowan and Smith firing, will look to overcome a scrappy Rutgers team.