In its return to Big Ten play and first contest of the new year, Maryland basketball fended off Penn State, 75-69, in College Park on Tuesday night.
Anthony Cowan led the way with 18 points, while Bruno Fernando put up 17 of his own and a career-high 11 rebounds en route to victory. It was an up and down night for almost everybody, but Cowan’s persistence and Fernando’s toughness were paramount.
With forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender out for the season, the Terps had to adjust, and they did. Mark Turgeon sent out a brand new starting lineup featuring Cowan, Darryl Morsell, Kevin Huerter, Fernando and Michal Cekovsky. It was the first time Fernando and Cekovsky started together, and the results were mixed, but ultimately good enough to secure a win.
Maryland’s turnover woes were absent for at least the evening, as the Terps had just five giveaways. With Penn State only committing six turnovers, it didn’t look like a normal Maryland game.
Huerter picked up two fouls in the game’s first 4:01, which presented a much more challenging situation than at any time this season. Down Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender, Dion Wiley was the first man off Mark Turgeon’s bench. Penn State countered with a 9-2 run.
Such a situation called for the game to turn into “The Anthony Cowan Show,” and he delivered. The sophomore had nine of Maryland’s first 19 points, including an unbelievably acrobatic layup as Maryland went on a 9-0 run to retake the lead.
This is Anthony Cowan's world, we're all just living in it pic.twitter.com/yl6gP5CNoF— The Eagles should sign Colin Kaepernick (@im_lamar) January 3, 2018
With one minute left in the first half, Cowan was the only Maryland guard to have scored; Morsell, Wiley and Huerter were a combined 0-for-9. Wiley made the first non-Cowan field goal and first Terps’ first three-pointer of the game with 16 seconds left in the first half.
At halftime, Cowan, who played every minute of the first half, led Maryland with 11 points. Fernando was on his heels with nine, while Cekovsky had six. Morsell was the only other scorer on the stat sheet with one point. Tony Carr heated up for the Nittany Lions at the end of the half, hitting two threes in the final minutes to put them up 34-40 at the break.
The Terps’ first play of the second half was for Huerter, who missed an open three, but a quick 5-0 run gave them the lead right out of the half. The game was back and forth from there, with neither team taking more than a five-point lead until Maryland’s final two free throws.
With four and a half minutes left in the game, Morsell hit his second three-pointer of the season to tie the game at 61. About 30 seconds later, Cekovsky followed with an offensive rebound and an emphatic and-one dunk to put Maryland up two. The buckets were part of a 12-3 run for the Terps, vaulting them into the lead and helping to seal the game.
It wasn’t an easy final few minutes, though, as a Josh Reaves three-pointer pulled Penn State within two with 23 seconds left. That was as close as they’d get, though, as Cowan and Huerter would ice the game on the free-throw line. It was a much-needed finish for a Maryland team that missed 11 foul shots in the game.
The Terps are back in action Thursday at 8 p.m. in East Lansing against No. 1 Michigan State on FS1.
Three things to know
1. Bruno Fernando could be a legit first-round prospect. If he continues to stay out of foul trouble like he did in this game, Fernando has shown the ability to put up some seriously good numbers. The freshman’s 17-point, 11-rebound double-double was arguably his most impressive performance yet, as he also didn’t pick up his first foul until there were 28 seconds left.
2. Darryl Morsell needs to work on his shot. Off nights are going to happen, and he made the big shot when it counted, but going 2-for-10 generally isn’t going to cut it in conference play. Morsell did add strong defense and four rebounds, but the jumper is still a work in progress.
3. The Terps may go as Kevin Huerter does. After a zero-point first half, the sophomore still found his way into double digits, helping turn a four-point halftime deficit into a six-point win.