NEWARK, N.J. — Anthony Cowan Jr. drove to the right side of the basket with 10:45 to go in the first half and kept going, attempting to sneak in a reverse layup past Seton Hall center Ike Obiagu.
But as he lofted his shot towards the left side of the backboard, the ball was violently swatted away by the 7’2 sophomore, adding to the Pirates’ five blocks in the first 10 minutes of the game.
No. 7 Maryland men's basketball was suffocated by Seton Hall’s defense all night, failing to get anything going offensively in the 52-48 loss, its second straight defeat.
“We’re not playing with a lot of confidence right now,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “And I got to figure out a way to give our guys confidence, because we don’t even look like the same team we were three weeks ago.”
It was eerily reminiscent of the last time Maryland was on the court back on Dec. 10 against Penn State, a game filled with an ugly offensive showing and a flurry of turnovers.
On Thursday night, Maryland shot just 27 percent from the floor and went 5-of-21 from behind the arc while committing 17 turnovers. The Pirates also blocked 15 shots, the most in a game against the Terps this season.
While Maryland was pressured on most every possession, the No. 7 team in the country still made an abundance of simple errors. Aaron Wiggins airballed an open triple, Jalen Smith stepped out of bounds on a drive and the Terps couldn’t buy a basket for over half the first period.
“[Turgeon] gave us the gameplan,” Cowan said. “He’s drawing up the blueprint for us, we’re just not executing it. We’re not hitting shots, not rebounding, turning the ball over.”
The Terps missed nine straight shots after Cowan’s three-pointer at the 12:16 mark, including four failed three-point attempts. The Terps also turned the ball over eight times in that span, picking up charges and committing bad passes left and right.
It wasn’t until the 3:57 mark that Maryland finally scored, when Smith hit a free throw. And it took nearly two minutes more for the Terps to finally make a field goal, which came on an Eric Ayala corner three.
With 21 seconds remaining in the half, Cowan bounced the ball into the post, where Ricky Lindo Jr. caught it and looked around for an open Terp.
He faked a pass to Eric Ayala on the outside, drawing the attention of two Seton Hall defenders. Their shift in focus allowed Smith to slip open inside, giving him the opportunity for an easy dunk to seemingly send Maryland into the locker room with just a seven-point deficit after an 8-2 run.
But the Pirates had other plans, as Anthony Nelson drove to the rack and lifted a floater above the outstretched arms of Smith for a buzzer-beating score.
While the Terps found something of a groove offensively in the last couple minutes, the first half was still a hellscape for Turgeon’s team — they shot just 24 percent from the field with 10 turnovers and just three assists.
The Terps only had 18 points at the break — their fewest in a game since Feb. 16, 2019 — as they were constantly unable to find space to operate.
“That’s what we’ve been working on — keeping things tight, making sure there are no gaps [defensively],” Nelson said. “Everyone was locked in during film, watching personnel. So we knew what everyone can do.”
Smith kicked off the scoring in the second half with a layup at the 19:41 mark, but Maryland immediately went back into a drought.
It took the Terps nearly four minutes before Wiggins made a mid-range jumper to end the drought. Wiggins himself scored seven straight points for Maryland and was the only one who put the ball through the basket in a 10-minute span.
Smith was able to cut the deficit to seven points with 7:30 to play, but disaster ensued over the next 90 seconds of play thanks to Quincy McKnight.
After he blocked an Ayala layup, McKnight fought through contact for an and-one layup against Smith. Less than 30 seconds later, he grabbed a defensive rebound and got the ball out to Myles Cale on the fast break, whose layup put Seton Hall up by 12.
The Terps didn’t go down without a fight, as they went on a 7-2 run in a two minute span to cut the deficit to just 49-46. Seton Hall missed four straight free throws late, allowing Maryland one last-gasp effort.
But Cowan couldn’t replicate the same magic he had against Illinois, as his late three-point attempt with 22 seconds left rimmed out.
Down 50-46, he was fouled beyond the arc, giving him three free-throw attempts. He made the first two and missed the final intentionally, as Maryland’s only chance was a rebound and putback. But Jared Rhoden secured the board, and McKnight’s free throws put it away for good.
Three things to know
1. Myles Powell wasn’t needed. Entering Thursday’s game, the biggest story was the absence of Powell, the Pirates’ leading scorer. He was ruled out indefinitely with a concussion days ahead of the matchup, but Turgeon prepared as if the senior guard would suit up — again, despite him having been ruled out by the team.
Powell wound up sitting as expected, and second-leading scorer Sandro Mamukelashvili was also out — he’ll be sidelined for weeks with a fractured wrist. It turns out, Seton Hall didn’t need their 32.1 points per game to beat the Terps.
2. The Terps continue to struggle from beyond the arc. So far this season, Maryland hasn’t found its stride with the three-point stroke, to say the least. Prior to Thursday, the team made just 30.8 percent of its triples, second-worst in the Big Ten and 249th in the nation. Against Seton Hall, the Terps were kept in check once again, as they made just five of their 21 attempts.
While it’s hard to imagine Maryland continuing to be this inefficient from beyond the arc going forward, a third of the season is already complete. But the team seems confident things will turn around.
“We know the guys who can and can’t shoot and the guys that aren’t hitting [shots], myself included,” Wiggins said. “It’s just a matter of everybody believing in each other, and that’s the one thing we’ve been doing.”
3. Mark Turgeon tinkered with the rotation, but nothing stuck. Turgeon elected to switch things up with his starting lineup once again. The Maryland head coach reinserted freshman Donta Scott to start this one — he had done so just once against Fairfield on Nov. 19.
And during the game, Turgeon was quick to pulling players out for poor performance. Things got so bad that walk-on Reese Mona checked into the game with 9:33 left, the earliest he’s entered regular season action by nearly 20 minutes. He ended up playing five minutes, tied with the Mitchell twins and three more than Hakim Hart.