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Takeaways from Maryland basketball’s senior night win over Minnesota

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Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith led the way as the Terps closed the regular season strong.

Maryland basketball Anthony Cowan vs. Minnesota Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

With over 12 minutes remaining in Maryland basketball’s 69-60 win over Minnesota, a chant fitting for senior night began at Xfinity Center. Maryland’s second-half lead had ballooned to 22, and the crowd started cheering “We Want Andrew!” for little-used senior guard Andrew Terrell. Despite Minnesota closing the game strong, the crowd got their wish, capping off a memorable night for the Terps.

On a night that started with a marriage proposal from Ivan Bender and ended with a huge ovation for everyone’s favorite towel-waving benchwarmer, Maryland led almost wire-to-wire in a 69-60 win. Here’s what stood out in the Terps’ final home game of the season.

Anthony Cowan Jr. was the best version of himself.

In the loss to then No. 9 Michigan, the biggest difference may have been point guard play. The Wolverines’ Zavier Simpson had 12 points, 10 assists and four ridiculous hook shots, while Cowan limped to 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting.

The junior completely flipped the script Friday night, scoring Maryland’s first five points and hitting four of his first five shots. It helped that Gabe Kalschuer, Minnesota’s top perimeter defender, struggled with foul trouble, but Cowan was just in a groove.

With 7:47 remaining in the first half, he threw up a three-pointer and leaned into a defender to try to draw a foul. He didn’t draw one, but the shot went in anyway. Then with 11:11 remaining in the second half, Cowan was trapped near the basket, and threw up a desperation circus shot that dropped through the net. He would finish with 21 points, the first time in 12 games he’s scored more than 20.

Maryland won’t get an effort like this from Cowan every night, but will need him to have this confidence and ability to create his own shot if it wants to make a postseason run.

Maryland’s other post players stepped up when Bruno Fernando got in foul trouble.

When Fernando picked up two fouls in 24 seconds in the first half, it looked like Minnesota was getting ready to attack the paint at will. Jalen Smith and Ricky Lindo still have room to fill out, and Ivan Bender and Joshua Tomaic aren’t known for being mobile or strong defenders.

But all four gave Maryland quality minutes in the first half, and helped make life tough for Jordan Murphy, who is one of the best post players in country. The Gophers rarely got easy shots at the rim, and were part of a collective defensive effort that held Minnesota to 27 percent shooting in the first half. By the time Fernando checked back in with 4:47 remaining in the half, the Terps’ lead had grown from 9-6 to 29-19.

“That was amazing to see,” Fernando said. “Obviously I’m a big part of what we do and whenever I get in foul trouble, sometimes we go down as a team. But everybody was just able to stay locked in and do the things we do offensively and defensively.”

Although Maryland got contributions from all its best players, it was Smith who was the standout. The freshman finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. When Fernando went to the bench, Smith scored timely baskets and played solid defense.

Smith also went 3-for-6 on three-point attempts, and Maryland is much harder to guard with the McDonald’s All-American as a perimeter threat.

“He’s got to be aggressive, he’s got to play with toughness, which he did tonight,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “He’s got to act like he’s one of the best players on the floor like he did tonight. It’s all there. We need him.”

Maryland finally won the turnover battle.

Although the Terps have struggled with ball security all year, their inability to create turnovers makes that problem more noticeable. According to KenPom, Maryland is 261st in turnover percentage and 352nd out of 353 teams at forcing turnovers. Whenever the Terps go through stretches where they give up the ball, they struggle to get those points back because they can’t do the same things on defense.

Maryland flipped the script Friday night, forcing 13 turnovers and committing just 10, and scored 18 points off turnovers compared to the Gophers’ six. The Terps limited turnovers for the second straight game after committing at least 15 in the previous four contests. It was the first time Maryland had a positive turnover margin in Big Ten play.

“We’ve really worked hard on the turnover situation,” Turgeon said. “Guys are just making better decisions, getting in the paint and not rushing things.”

According to Smith, Turgeon has tracked turnovers during practice, with the goal being for no one to commit more than one. Although there’s no punishment for when players go over the limit, Smith said it’s helped get the message across and make players more accountable.

With ball security more under control, Maryland looked to push the pace more often, which is unusual for a team that is sloppy in the halfcourt. Turnovers were the only thing holding back a relatively solid offense, and March is as good a time as any to correct such a debilitating problem.