Maryland basketball went 2-7 in Big Ten road games last year. The Terps just won their second in four days, pulling away for an 82-67 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday night.
This was a back-and-forth contest all evening, as neither team led by more than eight until Maryland dominated in the final minutes. Minnesota led for most of the first half, but the Terps pulled ahead midway through the second. Maryland’s offense found another gear after halftime, shooting 69.6 percent from the floor and going 6-of-7 on threes.
Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan Jr. led the way for the Terps. Smith scored 12 of his career-high 21 points in the first half, while Cowan poured in 23 after halftime to finish with a career-high 27. Bruno Fernando joined them in double figures, scoring 10 points and adding 11 rebounds for a double-double.
Much like Cowan, Amir Coffey shook off a slow start to lead Minnesota in the points column, tallying 16. Four Golden Gophers finished in double figures, but Maryland clamped down on Jordan Murphy, who averages a double-double but recorded just nine points and five rebounds as he battled foul trouble.
Maryland didn’t make a three-pointer in the first half, then caught fire out of the break, ultimately finishing a season-best 6-of-10 from deep. The Terps’ free-throw shooting was a constant plus, as the team connected on 24 of 27 foul shots. Minnesota struggled mightily from the stripe, going a ghastly 9-of-23. Maryland also won the rebounding battle 39-28, continuing its season-long dominance on the glass.
Minnesota jumped out to an early 15-8 lead, but Maryland responded with seven straight points to tie the game. The teams spent the rest of the first half going back and forth, although the Gophers led more often than not. With the game tied at 30, Minnesota pulled ahead with a five-point possession, as Murphy couldn’t complete an and-one, but Dupree McBrayer banked in a three off the rebound. The Gophers remained in front for the rest of the half, taking a 40-34 lead into the locker room.
Both teams started the second half hot offensively; Maryland hit its first eight shots of the period, but didn’t even tie the game until the 12:57 mark. That was part of a 9-0 run that would give the Terps a 56-54 lead, their first since 25-23. Mark Turgeon employed a rare zone defense during this stretch, and it stifled Minnesota’s scorers. Maryland kept that small lead for a while, but really made its move after the under-8 timeout, scoring seven straight to make it 69-61.
Coffey drilled a three a couple minutes later to trim the lead to four, but Cowan answered with a triple on the other end. Maryland led by seven at the final media timeout and six with 2:08 remaining, but closed the game on a 9-0 run to remove any doubts.
Maryland will take a four-game win streak back to College Park and host No. 22 Indiana at the Xfinity Center on Friday night.
Three things to know
1. It’s a crucial win on the road. Maryland won two Big Ten road games all of last season, but this victory makes two in a row. It’s also the second time in three contests that the Terps have pulled through in crunch time against a tough conference opponent. With Maryland in the middle of a brutal stretch—three of the next four opponents are ranked and the other was ranked last week—wins like this and the one over Nebraska last week are pivotal.
2. Both teams battled foul trouble. Early in the second half, Fernando and Ayala had three fouls for the Terps, while Murphy and Kalscheur had three each for Minnesota. Wiggins and McBrayer joined the group in the following minutes. Ultimately, Maryland handled this adversity far better, slashing through Minnesota’s defense all second half long.
3. Jalen Smith stayed hot. Since the calendar turned to 2019, the five-star freshman has played a starring role in three straight Maryland victories. He scored the Terps’ final seven points against Nebraska, then tossed up 16 with six boards at Rutgers. In this game, he had 12 at halftime, reached 18 early in the second half and finished the game with 21. Add in eight rebounds and two steals, and this is perhaps the best game of Smith’s young career.