With just over 10 minutes left in the first half against Indiana, Anthony Cowan Jr. dribbled near the top of the arc and waited to make a move. When Jalen Smith came up for a pick, the senior point guard moved to his right before throwing a pass to the left wing.
Waiting was Smith, who popped out after the pick and was left all alone. The 6’10 forward received the ball and jumped straight up, launching a three-pointer that swished through the nylon to end a three-minute scoring drought. On the Terps’ next possession, Smith nailed another three from the left corner on a pass from Aaron Wiggins.
Smith’s triples were the start of a 14-3 run to give the Terps a lead they’d never look back from in the 75-59 win over Indiana (11-3, 1-2 Big Ten), overcoming yet another slow start.
“That was definitely a big spark for us. I mean, two in a row,” Wiggins said. “We were stuck at like eight points for a couple minutes, so it was good to see him hit a couple shots.”
Maryland (12-2, 2-1) as a team had a poor first 20 minutes from the field, but the Baltimore duo of Smith and Darryl Morsell showed out, combining for 17 first-half points and going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.
Morsell brought the ball up the court with 5:29 left in the period after a defensive rebound and relinquished it to Cowan at the top of the key. The senior feigned a shot attempt and dropped the ball back off to Morsell, who immediately attacked the basket.
The junior wing jab-stepped his defender and took off towards the left side of the paint, using a mixture of size and speed to beat him to the rim and finish with his off-hand to give Maryland a six-point advantage, it’s largest of the game to that point.
Despite the strong play of Smith and Morsell, the Terps couldn’t quite pull away from Indiana due to the offensive struggles of the rest of the team. Outside of the pair, Maryland shot just 3-of-19 from the floor and 1-of-11 from beyond the arc, allowing the Hoosiers to stick around despite a near seven-minute scoring drought of their own. Maryland went into the half with a 28-20 lead.
“We weren’t terrific in the first half, but we kept guarding,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “And Stix hit the back-to-back threes, which got him going and kind of loosened up the defense a bit.”
The Terps finally found their groove from the field coming out of halftime, and the tone was set less than 90 seconds into the second period thanks to a highlight-reel play from Wiggins.
Sizing up against Indiana’s Aljami Durham at the top of the key with 18:43 left in the game, Wiggins made a hesitation move to throw his defender off balance and drove hard to the right side of the paint. His long legs and quickness allowed him to get to the block first, and he started his ascension to the rim.
Wiggins held the ball in his right hand and threw down a thunderous slam, dislodging the net and sending the Xfinity Center crowd into a roaring ovation.
“The paint was just wide open. I just made the play happen,” Wiggins said. “Of course that’s a big momentum play, and everybody wants to make a big play, but it was just a matter of it being in the moment. It just opened up for me.”
The dunk gave the Terps their first double-digit lead of the afternoon — a 33-22 advantage — though it didn’t last long. By the 14:17 mark, Indiana cut the deficit to just three points on the back of center Joey Brunk, who was a force all afternoon on the interior. Maryland needed a spark, and it turned to Cowan to do so.
After Donta Scott hit a mid-range jumper, Cowan finally broke through. He hit a floater from the free-throw line with 13:11 left, then he picked up a steal on the other end before feeding Eric Ayala in transition for an easy layup. On the next possession, the senior was fouled and hit two free throws to extend the Terps’ run to 8-0 and the lead back to 11.
“We kind of huddled up [in the timeout] and said, ‘We’re not gonna win if we keep giving them second-chance points,’” Darryl Morsell said. “So we just guarded, limited them to one shot, got out and ran. And we made great decisions on the break.”
On the next possession after a stepback three, Cowan drove towards the rim but was blocked by Trayce Jackson-Davis. Smith trailed the shot and secured the offensive rebound, finishing over Brunk for an and-one layup.
Scott followed with a steal on the other end, putting the ball in Cowan’s hands once again. The senior raced out in transition, but before going up for a layup, he dumped a perfectly-placed pass off to the freshman, who delivered a high-flying dunk on the fastbreak.
The sequence started a 25-3 run that took the Terps’ lead from eight points to 30 in just over six minutes. Indiana was never able to cut into its deficit as Maryland continued to pile it on late, starting the new year in dominant fashion.
Three things to know
1. Neither team could buy a basket from long range. Coming into the game, both Maryland and Indiana had struggled mightily from beyond the arc on the season. The Terps entered making just 31.2 percent of their threes, which ranked 241st in the nation, and the Hoosiers came in at 31.4 percent, 232nd in the country. On Saturday, the teams combined to go just 10-of-42 from three-point territory, and Maryland was just 6-of-24.
2. Anthony Cowan Jr. struggled shooting-wise early, but it didn’t matter. All year long to this pint, the Terps have won and lost as a result of Cowan’s triumphs and falters. Against Indiana, Cowan went just 4-of-13 from the field — including a 1-of-6 performance from beyond the arc — though he finished the game making three of his last seven shots and splitting his final two three-point attempts. When the team needed him most, he found a way to pull off a little more magic and spark a couple scoring runs in the second half.
“It means a lot,” Smith said of Cowan’s ability to flip the switch. “Pretty much, we go as Ant [goes]. Once he starts going, that gets the whole team going. The defense has to play on Ant, and then it just opens it up for other people.”
3. Chol Marial did not build on his debut. After seeing 14 minutes and putting up six points and five boards against Bryant, Marial did not see much action in his first career conference game. The 7’2 freshman only played eight minutes after facing foul trouble in the second half, and he finished with two points and three rebounds.