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Maryland basketball takes down Butler, 79-65

The Terps are 3-0 to start the season.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball defeated Butler 79-65 Wednesday night in front of a raucous Xfinity Center crowd in the third annual edition of the Gavitt Games. The Terps are now 3-0 in the competition between the Big Ten and Big East.

Anthony Cowan was the driving force behind Maryland’s win, just as he has been all season. The sophomore point guard finished the night with 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists for his most complete performance of the short season.

Despite the team’s 20-2 start to last year, it rarely escaped these early-season games without some added stress. This game was different.

But it didn’t feel like it out of the gate. Butler jumped out to a quick 15-10 lead. Three minutes into the game, Michal Cekovsky had all five of Maryland’s points until Cowan hit a driving left-handed layup.

Bruno Fernando gave Maryland a huge spark off the bench through the middle of the first half, scoring six points in just eight minutes. His energy combined with timely threes from Cowan and Kevin Huerter and some highlight plays above the rim on both sides of the floor to send the Terps on a 22-5 run. When it was over, Maryland was up 32-20, and it’d never look back.

The Bulldogs looked as if they might just climb back into it early in the second half, as Huerter turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions. Like it has early and often this season, though, Maryland turned defense into offense in the blink of an eye and ran the floor effectively to stop Butler’s run. With the Bulldogs on a break, Cekovsky hustled down the middle of the floor to deflect an outlet pass to Huerter, which started a fast break the other way. Huerter found Cowan, who hit Morsell for an alley-oop slam. After a stop, Cowan ran a solo fast break and finished a layup while getting fouled to put the Terps up 13.

Heading into the under-8 media timeout, Cowan threw the ball away on a pass to Fernando. The big man chased down a streaking Tyler Wideman, and didn’t necessarily block the dunk attempt, but bothered him enough to force a miss. Butler fumbled the rebound out of bounds and the Terps were back in business. That was enough to draw a roar from the crowd, but it was nothing compared to the thunderous applause and cheers the freshman drew on his way to the huddle as he pumped up the fans all the way from the far baseline back to the Terps’ huddle.

A few minutes later, Butler was once again applying pressure, and Maryland was literally fumbling the ball—and potentially the lead—away. But a diving Wiley found Cowan on the wing, who drained an NBA-range triple to put the Terps back up eight before Morsell came away with a steal and fast-break dunk of his own on the ensuing possession. Just like that, Maryland was back up by 10 and the building was as loud as it had been all night.

From there, the Terps cruised to a 14-point victory over the Bulldogs to get to 3-0 on the season. Maryland will be back in action on Saturday at home against Bucknell at 8:30 on BTN.

Three things to know

1. Bruno Fernando will be worth the growing pains. The freshman still has some things to learn and refine, but man, he is fun to watch. With five players on the floor, it’s hard to say one player is responsible for the whole team’s play, but when he entered the game, Maryland was down five. He threw down a couple of dunks and blocked a shot, and all of a sudden, the Terps went on a 22-5 run over the next eight minutes.

2. Maryland is playing a much faster-paced game. With a nine-man rotation (that doesn’t include Sean Obi), the Terps ran all night long. It directly led to eight fast-break points, but netted many more.

3. Cowan is just fine stepping into Melo Trimble’s shoes. They’re some big shoes, but Cowan looked poised as ever Wednesday night, recording a double-double en route to the Terps’ win.

Maryland vs Butler full stats
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