Maryland basketball is back in the win column, as the No. 21 Terps cruised to a 70-52 victory over Northwestern in College Park on Tuesday night.
After two double-digit losses, this was a drama-free win. Maryland led for (38:27) of game time, trailing only at 2-0. The Terps played stifling defense all night, holding Northwestern to an abysmal 31 percent shooting from the field.
Bruno Fernando had his way down low, notching 22 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double in a row and 13th of the season. Freshman Jalen Smith nearly posted a double-double of his own, tallying 14 points and nine boards. Anthony Cowan Jr. battled serious foul trouble, scoring eight points in a season-low 19 minutes. Darryl Morsell scored eight in the first half, while Eric Ayala added his eight in the second half. Anthony Gaines and Dererk Pardon led Northwestern with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
Maryland grabbed 44 rebounds to Northwestern’s 28, and the Terps committed just 11 turnovers after posting a season-high 21 against Illinois on Saturday. The Wildcats still led convincingly in points off turnovers (18-5) and fast-break points (15-6), so those trends haven’t died, although they didn’t prove costly.
Maryland led 15-5 early, with all points coming from Cowan, Fernando and Darryl Morsell. The Terps’ defense started strong, forcing 12 straight Northwestern misses after the Wildcats made their first two shots. The visitors changed the tone with an 8-0 run, but a little while later, Maryland would force nine straight misses and score 10 unanswered points, building its lead up to 14. The Terps ultimately went into halftime up 33-22.
Northwestern shot just 7-of-31 (22.6 percent) in the first half, while Maryland went 11-of-27 (40.6 percent). Save for a stretch that included six turnovers in roughly six minutes, the Terps controlled the opening period. Fernando had 12 points and six rebounds at intermission.
The Wildcats’ cold shooting persisted in the second half, and Maryland raised its lead to 23 by the 10-minute mark. It never really got interesting from there. The real fun came in the final minute, where Andrew Terrell entered for the first time as a scholarship athlete following chants of his name for most of the second half. Cowan picked up his fourth foul with 11:56 remaining and was able to take the rest of the night off.
Maryland now enters its toughest stretch of the season. Four of the next five are on the road, and four of the next five are against teams in the current AP top 25. The gauntlet begins Friday night as the Terps visit No. 24 Wisconsin.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s defense locked down the Wildcats. Shooting percentages this low are always at least partially a product of an emphatic off night, but the Terps did their part, contesting most of Northwestern’s looks. The opposition hot streak never came like it did Saturday against Illinois, when the Illini made 11 second-half triples.
2. The Terps held their own with Anthony Cowan in foul trouble. Cowan picked up his third personal foul on a hook-and-hold flagrant (there was a hook but no hold) at the end of the first half, and his fourth came at the 11:56 mark in the second half. As a result, Maryland’s leading scorer played just two minutes in the second half. But the other guards stepped up. Ayala shook off a scoreless first half to drop eight in the period, while Serrel Smith Jr. continued to impress on defense. Maryland will need Cowan at his best over the next few games, but it’s refreshing to see the Terps not falter in his absence.
3. Darryl Morsell’s three-point redemption continues. The sophomore went 3-of-25 from long range last year and started this season 2-of-14, but he’s made nine of his last 21 three-pointers after going 2-for-2 Tuesday. Morsell still tried to do too much on offense a couple times, but he’s a much more potent weapon when those shots are falling.