Maryland basketball closed its regular season with an emphatic 69-60 senior-night victory over Minnesota on Friday.
Coming off two straight losses, the No. 24 Terps (22-9, 13-7 Big Ten) controlled this game early and often. They led nearly the entire way, only trailing at 2-0. Maryland opened up a double-digit lead just over nine minutes in, and things didn’t get closer than that until the final minute, when the game was in hand.
Anthony Cowan Jr. was on his game, tallying 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting while adding five assists. Jalen Smith notched 19 points and 11 rebounds and had his best shooting performance of the year, nailing 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. Bruno Fernando, likely playing his last game in College Park before turning pro, fell into first-half foul trouble but finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Maryland had far from its best shooting night as a team, connecting on just 41.9 percent of its field-goal attempts. But the defense clamped down and held Minnesota to 38.2 shooting, including 26.9 percent in the first half. Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy carried the Gophers’ scoring load, finishing with 23 and 14, respectively.
The Terps started hot on both ends of the floor. Cowan, who’s battled slow starts all season, had seven points on 3-of-3 shooting by the first media timeout. Fernando picked up two quick fouls and checked out at the 14:59 mark, but Smith knocked down a pair of threes to give Maryland an early 15-6 lead. Minnesota made just four of its first 18 shots, allowing the Terps to stretch their advantage to 27-13 by the under-8. Even when the Terps endured a 1-of-12 dry spell, the Gophers weren’t able to get closer than 10, and the lead was 34-22 at halftime.
Minnesota couldn’t make a charge to start the second half, as Maryland on its first two possessions to bring the lead to 16. After a brief back-and-forth, the Terps scored seven straight and took a 54-32 lead on Darryl Morsell’s triple at the 13:01 mark. Save for a brief Minnesota 6-0 run that prompted a Maryland timeout, it was cruise control from there.
Chants of “We Want Andrew” rained down from the student section throughout the second half, and senior Andrew Terrell finally checked in with 51 seconds remaining and Maryland up 12. He launched a long three at the crowd’s insistence and airballed it. Dupree McBrayer hit a three to cut it to single digits, but there was no drama beyond that.
Maryland still has a chance at the No. 4 seed and a double bye in the Big Ten tournament, but it needs both a Wisconsin loss at Ohio State and some other help. Otherwise, the Terps will be the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament and begin play in Chicago on Thursday afternoon.
Three things to know
1. It’s a win to close the regular season. Maryland had dropped its previous two contests, one in convincing fashion at Penn State and one at home against Michigan. Three straight losses would have been cause for serious concern heading into the postseason, even with an NCAA Tournament bid locked up. Now, the Terps have some momentum to take into the conference tournament.
2. Maryland won the turnover battle. The Terps committed just 10 giveaways while forcing 13 from Minnesota, the first time in Big Ten play Maryland has won this category. It’s also just the third time the Terps have forced more turnovers than they’ve committed all season, with the other instances coming against Navy and Loyola-Chicago. Even more impressively, Maryland led 18-6 in points off turnovers Friday.
3. Ivan Bender had a night to remember. Even without a ceremonial start, the senior forward logged five minutes, his most since January. He finished his final home game scoreless with a rebound, an assist and three fouls. But more importantly, he proposed to girlfriend during his senior night ceremony and she said yes.
She said YES! @TerrapinHoops' Ivan Bender proposed to his long-time girlfriend on senior night. pic.twitter.com/g9AEii7BTs— ESPN (@espn) March 9, 2019
Later in the game, there was another successful proposal in the crowd. Love was in the College Park air Friday night (and so was a win).