Welcome back to the Testudo Times film room. Friday’s 75-66 win over Illinois further proved that this Maryland men’s basketball team loves a good comeback against the Fighting Illini.
After trailing by as many as 15 points and coming out with a home win against Illinois back in December, the Terps followed a similar blueprint to pick up a road win in Champaign to clinch the top spot in the Big Ten. Maryland trailed by 14 points early in the first half, but was able to claw its way back towards the end of the first half, and then take control in the final period.
Anthony Cowan Jr. and Darryl Morsell led the way for the Terps during the gutsy win, but it was a team effort that helped the Terps prevail and move to 19-4 on the season and 9-3 in the Big Ten.
Let’s take a look at all of the impact plays from the big road win.
Anthony Cowan Jr. did it all for Maryland
One of Cowan’s best plays of the night came early on in the first half. He came across the top of the key, faked going for the dribble handoff with Morsell and then exploded to the hoop with a beautifully executed cut to finish the bucket and draw the foul.
Night after night, Cowan displays his top notch finishing skills, and this game against Illinois was no different.
After starting the first few minutes of the game neck and neck with Illinois, the Fighting Illini began to build a sizable lead after a Mark Turgeon technical foul. Outside of Cowan, the Terps started this game extremely slow and couldn’t get anything going early.
Without his early contributions to keep the Terps afloat, this game could have gone a lot differently, as he showed on this play. Cowan brought the ball up at the top of the key and went to work. He used a crossover to get the edge on his defender and then exploded to the hole to finish off the contested layup.
Early in the second half, the Terps had begun to take the momentum away from the Illini and established their lead. Donta Scott and Morsell played great defense on this play to force the steal.
Scott dished it to Cowan in transition, who was able to make an excellent read to find Smith wide open running to the rim. The senior guard’s strong court vision was on full display in this game.
Maryland has struggled at times to get good shots during the final minutes of games that they have a lead in, but its execution down the stretch in this contest was spot on. On this play, Cowan dribbled out much of the shot clock at the top of the key, used a ball screen from Smith to get some space and then pulled up for the made three.
If you’re Turgeon, this is exactly what you want at the end of games; the ball in the hands of your best player. Cowan was able to extend the Terps’ lead and drain almost 30 seconds off the game clock, which is exactly what you want from him at this moment in the game.
Cowan finished with one of his best and most balanced stat lines of the season. The senior star had 20 points, seven assists, four rebounds and a steal.
Darryl Morsell could not be contained
Over the past few games, Morsell has become a force offensively, particularly with his strong drives to the basket. On this play, the junior guard faked out the help defense that converged on him and drove to the hole for a big dunk in the middle of Maryland’s big comeback effort.
On the Terps’ next trip down the floor, Morsell did it again. To start this sequence off, Morsell swung around towards to the basket. Once he got to the short corner, his defender moved towards the middle of the paint to help out on the eventual Cowan drive to the rim.
Morsell was able to spot his defender, leave and wait for Cowan to get close to the rim. Cowan drove to the hoop and spotted the wide open Morsell, to whom he lobbed it up for the easy layup alley-oop. This play demonstrated tremendous court awareness from both Cowan and Morsell, and it was one of the best plays of the night.
Morsell came up big in impactful moments for the Terps all night long. Maryland had built a nice sized lead over the Illini a few minutes before this, but Illinois came storming back to get within one at this juncture in the game. Morsell got the ball on this play and liked the look enough to let it fly to convert the triple and Maryland a four-point advantage.
The junior is not known for his range from deep, but his progression over the past three years in this facet of his game has been phenomenal. Morsell is currently shooting 38.7 percent from deep this season compared to 29 percent a season ago and 12 percent in his freshman year.
Morsell finished the game with 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field to go along with five rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Other Standout Plays
Jalen Smith was kept in check for parts of this game, but he still hit some really big shots for the Terps and was able to come away with his sixth double-double in a row, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. On this play, he got the ball at the top of the key, used a pump fake to get past Kofi Cockburn and then hit the mid-range jumper.
Smith’s now lethal shooting from beyond the arc has forced defenders like Cockburn to respect his range and come all the way out to cover Smith on the perimeter. Smith’s ability to stretch the floor should lead to continued looks like this as the season moves along.
The matchup with Cockburn was one of the toughest Smith will have to face all season. With Smith weighing in at 225 pounds and Cockburn weighing in at 290 pounds, the size difference created mutual disadvantages and advantages for the two bigs. One thing that Smith did to combat the major weight difference between was use his superior athleticism.
On this play, Smith came up for a screen-and-roll at the top of the key. Cockburn became fixated with helping on Cowan, a typical move for a slower big man, and Smith was able to easily run to the hoop and get the alley oop.
We’ll end this film breakdown with one of the best plays of the game, and one of the best plays of the season from Eric Ayala. On this play, Ayala brought the ball up in transition, but was given a nice mismatch with a big man in Giorgi Bezhanishvili. He took advantage of the mismatch by putting Bezhanishvili in the spin cycle to convert the contested layup.
Ayala has been struggling tremendously to get anything going recently and for much of this season, but he was extremely aggressive in this game. He finished with 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting from the field, but hit some big shots in big moments and can hopefully build on this performance for the stretch run of the season.