In Maryland basketball’s conference opener Saturday against Penn State, Anthony Cowan Jr. struggled for nearly 38 minutes. As he brought the ball up the floor with his team up 58-55, Cowan had scored just nine points on 4-of-10 shooting, missed all four of his three-point attempts and committed five turnovers.
But with the shot clock running down and just over two minutes remaining, Cowan pulled up from the elbow and drained a long ball that doubled Maryland’s lead from three to six.
Cowan hits a clutch three in the game's final two minutes pic.twitter.com/5SYiDS0IVw— Lamar Johnson (@im_lamar) December 1, 2018
And in the final minute, the shot clock again approaching zero, Cowan fired from even deeper. He nailed it again.
TALK ABOUT CLUTCH. COWAN. DEEP THREE. pic.twitter.com/B8prmIuORO— Lamar Johnson (@im_lamar) December 2, 2018
Cowan finished with 15 points, second-most on the team behind Jalen Smith’s 16. The junior point guard finished 6-of-12 from the floor and 2-of-6 from three, dishing out four assists and grabbing two rebounds. His season-high six turnovers can’t be ignored, but he made up for them with the two massive triples. Maryland won 66-59 and is 1-0 in Big Ten play.
“He’s got great short-term memory. He’s got amnesia,” Penn State head coach Pat Chambers said after the game. “He had six turnovers, but that’s not gonna affect him, that’s not gonna affect the way he plays, he’s still gonna be on the attack.”
The late heroics might remind some Maryland fans of Melo Trimble, Cowan’s predecessor as Maryland’s point guard. The second deep three was launched from almost the same spot as Trimble’s game-winner against Michigan State in his final home contest. Comparing the two isn’t fair to either, but this is Cowan’s team, and he played like it down the stretch Saturday.
“Melo [Trimble] did it for us a lot, and now Anthony did it tonight. It was a big-time shot,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “[I’m] proud of him. I thought he was much better in the second half. His defense was terrific. He’s just got to take care of the ball better, obviously.”
Cowan is averaging a team-high 16.4 points and 4.5 assists per game this season, and he’s scored in double digits in all eight contests. After playing perhaps his best college game against Marshall (26 points on 10-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists), Cowan has struggled in the first half in the last two games. But he’s bounced back with strong second halves and finished both contests with 15 points. Cowan has committed 14 turnovers in the last three games after just eight in the first five, which is of serious concern as the schedule doesn’t get much easier.
But clutch shots are an easy way to make up for earlier mistakes, and Cowan did just that on Saturday. He’s made a habit of hitting threes late in the shot clock, and while it’s rarely ideal to let those 30 seconds tick all the way down, he says it sometimes makes his job simpler.
“My biggest thing is always making the best play, but then when the shot clock’s going down, you’ve got to shoot it,” Cowan said. “I think that kinda takes a little pressure off, and I’m able to knock them down.”
Maryland plays another Big Ten game and its first game outside the state on Thursday, as the Terps visit No. 19 Purdue, which lost its conference opener at Michigan on Saturday. The team’s confidence is certainly higher now, entering West Lafayette 1-0 in this two-game conference stretch, than it would have been at 0-1 with a two-game losing streak. Despite an up-and-down game, Cowan did his part to help.
“Our biggest thing that we wanted was to come out 1-0,” Cowan said. “I think that does a lot for us momentum-wise in the Big Ten, and also for our freshmen, gives us a lot of momentum going into what’s gonna be a crazy game at Purdue. We can just get ready for that now.”