With a little under 14 minutes remaining in the first half, Jalen Smith set a screen for Aaron Wiggins behind the arc and then burst right to get an open look. Wiggins saw the defense pull off his teammate and passed the ball to Smith, who drained a three-pointer to put No. 17 Maryland men’s basketball up 13 points against Purdue.
After Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic missed a triple on the next play, Smith and Wiggins battled with the Boilermakers to corral the rebound. Anthony Cowan Jr. swept in to grab the ball, and after crossing to the other side of the court, threw it to an open Wiggins on the left wing behind the arc. The sophomore drained the three-pointer to give Maryland a 20-4 lead with 12:50 to go in the period.
Fresh off two consecutive losses on the road, the Terps came out with a renewed energy against Purdue at Xfinity Center Saturday, using their best start of the season en route to an 57-50 victory.
“We needed a win, obviously it’s an understatement. It’s a great win for us,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Coming off a tough loss on the road — a game that we probably could have won, but we didn’t — our guys responded. It showed you a little bit about our guys the way we came out and started the game and played terrific.”
Just under three minutes into the contest, Maryland jumped out to a 9-0 lead behind a three-pointer from Eric Ayala. On the defensive end, the Terps forced the Boilermakers into four missed shots and two turnovers in the first five minutes. Their opponent didn't find the back of the hoop until 15:26 remained in the first half.
The team never looked back in the first after Wiggins’ deep ball put Maryland up 16 points, continuing to dominate its opponent.
With nine left in the first half, Donta Scott burst into the air to block Evan Boudreaux from behind. Wiggins then found the freshman on the other end, who drained a triple. On the Terps’ next possession, Scott once again sunk a deep ball from the same spot on the top left behind the arc, putting his team up 28-10. At that point, Maryland was shooting an impressive 7-for-11 from deep.
“That was huge,” Smith said. “Donta, he gave the whole team a whole bunch of energy. And everybody just fed off of that and it just trickled down and led to us scoring and us playing defense.”
By halftime, Maryland held a dominant 36-20 lead behind a 53.8 percentage from the floor and a 46.7 percent mark from deep.
Purdue came out of the break looking stronger and managed to shorten the Terps’ lead significantly, bringing it as close as 44-37 with 11:40 to play.
But Maryland never let its opponent fully get into it until late, largely thanks to the play of Smith. With under 18 minutes left and the Terps still without a second half score, the sophomore secured an offensive rebound off a miss from Darryl Morsell and then rose up over Boilermaker defenders for a slam dunk.
A few minutes later, Cowan drove into the paint and threw up an alley-oop to Smith, who once again sent Xfinity Center into loud cheers with a jam to put the Terps up 42-28.
After some shooting struggles down the stretch, including making just one of nine field goals, Maryland allowed Purdue to shorten the deficit to just three points at 53-50 with under four minutes left to play.
The team wouldn't let it get any closer than that though. With a little over two minutes to go, Wiggins dribbled into the paint and looked around for an open man as one of his defenders slipped and fell. He found Smith down low, who leapt between two defenders for yet another dunk, putting Maryland up 55-50.
“When I kept my dribble and turned around, I knew the dude fell down. And then I saw Stix’s man step up and try and keep me from passing the ball,” Wiggins said. “So I knew Stix would be wide open if they didn’t rotate, but I had to look for [Morsell] on the opposite wing first so that he wouldn’t try to keep Stix from getting it. You know, just the patience, staying on two feet, keeping my pivot, I was able to find Stix.”
The Terps’ locked down on defense from there to come away with a much-needed victory, which was sparked by their first half showing.
Three things to know
1. Maryland moves up in the Big Ten standings. Coming into Saturday’s matchup, the Terps and Boilermakers each held a 3-3 record in conference play and were in a four-way tie for sixth place. With the victory, Maryland gets over the .500 hump and now has a winning Big Ten record, which will be put to the test immediately on Tuesday against Northwestern.
2. Jalen Smith notched another double-double. The 6’11 forward led Maryland in scoring and rebounding against the Boilermakers, putting up 18 points and 10 rebounds. The performance marks his ninth double-double of the season. Smith also recorded four blocks and went 8-of-13 from the field, including hitting two of his five three-point attempts.
“Jalen, he stepped up today and showed us that he really can do all things we’ve been thinking he can do,” Scott said.
3. Anthony Cowan Jr. had an up-and-down game. The senior guard was cold from the floor Saturday, shooting 1-of-8 on the afternoon, including 0-of-4 from deep. And while he committed five turnovers, he was a key facilitator for Maryland with seven assists, which tied his season-high.