ORLANDO, Fla. — Having finally gotten itself a bit of life against Temple, No. 5 Maryland men’s basketball had a 45-44 lead with 13 minutes left and needed to separate.
Anthony Cowan Jr. went up for a layup in the paint, but was fouled hard by a defender, sending him to the line. He dropped both shots with ease.
On the next play, Cowan poked the ball out of the hands of Owl guard Quinton Rose and sprinted towards the other end of the court before using a pump-fake move to give Maryland a five-point lead — its largest of the day up to that point.
Though the contest remained close throughout, the play of the senior guard gave the Terps some much needed energy. Cowan was a catalyst for the Terps all day, scoring a career-high 30 points to lead Maryland to a 76-69 victory over Temple in the first round of the Orlando Invitational.
“I was just taking what the defense was giving me, not forcing anything,” Cowan said. “This game, I was able to score a little bit more. That’s just been my focus this whole year, just going with the flow, not forcing anything.”
Though they pulled off the win, it seemed like every time the Terps were on the cusp of a big run, Temple found a way to stop their momentum in its tracks. And all afternoon long, Cowan kept his team within reach.
Trailing Temple 16-9 with a little under 15 minutes remaining in the first half, it was clear Maryland still was stuck in a rut of slow starts.
“I want to give Temple a lot of credit. They were shot out of a cannon at the start of this game,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re still getting used to that, teams coming at us because of our ranking. We’re still a young team, so we’re learning as we go.”
The Terps went on a 9-0 run to even the score, but unlike their prior matchups this season, they weren’t able to turn the burst into a big lead with an array of turnovers and sloppy play. Maryland gave the ball away five times in a little over six minutes to let Temple regain a 21-18 lead.
The rest of the half remained close, with 21 turnovers committed between the two teams. The Terps kept themselves from separating, committing 11 turnovers and allowing the Owls to score 16 points off of them, and entered halftime down 34-29 — the first time they trailed at the break all season.
Come the second half, Maryland cleaned up its play to only give the ball up three times and allow Temple just one more point off of turnovers. But nonetheless, the game remained a close battle, unlike any of the Terps’ games so far this season.
“It was Temple — they were really good. And we looked a little bit young today, at times our bench wasn’t quite as deep,” Turgeon said. “That was a high-level game, that was an NCAA Tournament game — high-level NCAA Tournament game.”
Cowan put up a quick layup to start the half, followed by a deep three-pointer a few plays later to shorten the deficit to 37-36, but once again his supporting cast couldn’t help push for a big run.
That never derailed the senior, though. He was determined to get Maryland the win.
With 2:30 remaining, Cowan passed the ball off to Eric Ayala and cut under the basket for a wide open shot on the corner. He swished it home to give Maryland a 65-62 lead, setting the new-career high.
The shot carried the Terps into a 14-7 run — helped by crucial three-pointers from Ayala and Jalen Smith — to end the contest and move on to the second round of the tournament on the winners’ side of the bracket.
“Just being able to come here and fight for the win and just play hard means a lot,” Smith said.
Three things to know
1. For the first time this season, there wasn’t an even distribution of scoring. Entering Thursday, four Maryland players had averaged at least 10 points per game. Through five games, scoring came from someone different every night.
But against the Owls, Cowan took over. He was the first Terp to put up at least 20 points in a game in 2019-20, finishing with a career-high 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting (4-of-8 from deep). He also went 4-of-5 from the free throw line and added four assists.
Ayala and Smith got going late in the second half, finishing with 13 and 12 points, respectively, but no one else finished in double-digits. Smith also led the team in rebounding, grabbing nine boards on the afternoon.
2. The Terps got beat on the glass. All season long, Maryland took the edge in the rebounding margin against opponents. Most of that was due to a considerable size advantage on the competition, but still, the Terps were dominating on the boards. But against the Owls, Maryland’s bigs couldn’t get the edge it needed. Temple out-rebounded Maryland by a 39-32 margin.
3. Maryland was behind for most of this one. Maryland has gotten out to a slow start in nearly every game of 2019-20, but has always been able to separate itself starting with a run to end the first half. But on Thursday, the Terps were behind for 23:49, only leading for 9:47.