Maryland basketball looked to be cruising to an easy win against Wisconsin, until it wasn’t. Despite leading by 18 points with 10:38 remaining, the Terps’ offense went cold and the Badgers got hot and took a 60-59 lead with 2:01 remaining. Then, in the final minute, Anthony Cowan Jr. hit one of his patented desperation threes to give Maryland its first field goal in over 10 minutes and the lead for good.
Here’s what went right, what went wrong and what went really wrong in the Terps’ 64-60 win.
The good: Anthony Cowan
Cowan remembers sitting in his basement three years ago, watching Melo Trimble hit a game-winning three at Wisconsin with five seconds remaining. Wednesday night, Cowan hit a shot from almost the same spot, giving Maryland back the lead with 42 seconds to go.
“It wasn’t like it was my first time with the ball at eight seconds (left on the shot clock),” Cowan said. “I knew we were down one and I saw the defender kind of sagging off a little bit, so I just pulled up.”
It capped off another ridiculous second half for the junior, who scored 19 of his game-high 21 points after halftime and 19 of the Terps’ last 26 points in the game. While he only shot 4-of-14 from the field, Cowan made his living at the foul line. He went 11-of-13 at the stripe, with every attempt coming in the second half. In the past three games, Cowan has been to the foul line 33 times.
But the crunch-time, improbable three has become Cowan’s specialty, which is why he has the ball in his hands late despite having an up-and-down season so far. While Maryland has played through Fernando for much of this season, Cowan will continue to be the X-factor as the Terps continue Big Ten play.
The bad: Maryland’s post offense
Opposing coach after opposing coach has discussed how hard Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith are to defend, but Wisconsin did as good a job as any team Maryland has faced of limiting the Terps inside. Maryland finished with just 12 points in the paint, including just two after halftime. Smith had 11 points largely due to his 6-of-7 performance at the line, and Fernando had just 10 after sitting for large stretches due to foul trouble.
For Maryland, the last stretch without Fernando was almost fatal. The Terps kept Wisconsin at bay the first time Fernando was out, but looked lifeless without him the second. Maryland didn’t hit a shot from the field when Fernando went to the bench the second time, and Wisconsin used hot three-point shooting to eventually take the lead before coming up just short.
Maryland has played without Fernando for short stretches this year, especially around media timeouts, but hasn’t played an extended stretch without him since the season-opening win over Delaware. That was another game where the Terps built a big lead before almost falling apart late and having to escape with a win.
The ugly: The last 11 minutes
Maryland only hit one shot from the field in the last 11 minutes and still won the game. Over that same time period, Wisconsin hit nine shots, seven of which were three-pointers. Instead of cruising to an easy win, the Terps had to rally after Brad Davison hit a three to give Wisconsin a 60-59 lead with 2:01 remaining.
Mark Turgeon thought Maryland’s offense began to struggle late in the first half, and went on to say that the Terps should’ve led by 25 instead of 18 heading into the locker room.
“We were a little bit stagnant,” Turgeon said. “They played a really smart game defensively and they stopped doubling and they zoned up a little bit more. We missed shots but a lot of it was us being stagnant and not moving.”
For Turgeon, though, the biggest difference was how his team executed at the foul line. Against Seton Hall, Maryland faltered down the stretch and hit just 12-of-20 free throws in a loss. On Monday, the Terps went 24-of-29 from the foul line, including 18-of-22 in the second half when Maryland desperately needed points. That allowed the Terps to hit their fewest field goals in a win since at least 2010, according to Sports-Reference.