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TT Court Vision: Anthony Cowan Jr. wills Terps to huge road win at Michigan State

We take to the film room to examine key plays that led to the Terps’ win over the Spartans.

Anthony Cowan Jr., Michigan State, 2020 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

Welcome back to the Testudo Times film room. No. 9 Maryland men’s basketball picked up another thrilling win Saturday night, defeating Michigan State, 67-60, on the road to extend its win streak to eight games.

The Terps came out of the gates firing in East Lansing, building up a 15-point lead at one point. However, on a night in which they were hosting ESPN’s College Gameday and honoring its 2000 National Championship team, the Spartans would not go down easily.

Michigan State locked down the Terps for much of the second half, building up a seven-point cushion with a little over three minutes to play, but Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith would not let their team be denied.

Let’s take a look at all the impact plays from the duo and the rest of the team.

The comeback

Let me preface this part of the breakdown with the fact that although Maryland played amazing defense during the last three or so minutes of this game, I chose to only include the offensive plays from the comeback.

Given that these gifs only allow for about 10 seconds of footage, it was too hard to include the great defensive stands that the Terps had during this run. If you have any interest in looking back at the defense from the last three minutes, pay attention to the Terps’ strong defensive rotations and their excellent help defense.

After multiple dribble handoffs around the perimeter with just over three minutes to go, Smith came up from the low post and looked like he was going to set a ball screen for Darryl Morsell.

However by slipping the ball screen for the junior guard, Smith was able to throw off Xavier Tillman and create the space necessary to knock down the big three-point basket, which started the Terps’ final surge to close out this game.

On this play, it was Morsell’s penetration to the hoop that allowed for Cowan to get the corner three.

Morsell’s strong drive to the hoop attracted Cowan’s man to come over and help, which gave the senior guard just enough space to get the ball and knock down the three.

On the very next play, Maryland utilized the same exact strategy as before to free up Cowan from his defender. Aaron Wiggins made a strong drive to the basket, which again attracted Rocket Watts away from Cowan.

The senior once again got his feet set and made Watts pay as he converted the long range triple to give Maryland the lead with a little over a minute to play.

On this final three pointer from Cowan to extend the lead to 65-60, it was really all him going to work at the end of the shot clock and hitting the dagger three to put the game away. Cowan utilized a ball screen from Smith at the top of the key, which created some space after Tillman and Watts ran into each other.

This play was just another example of Cowan going to work at the end of the shot clock for the Terps and hitting a big time three like has done all season to finish off games.

More great plays from Smith and Cowan

The last three minutes of the game were not the only moments Cowan and Smith shined in this one. During the first half of this game, Maryland did an excellent job of getting out in transition and getting easy buckets.

On this play, Cowan grabbed the rebound and looked to push immediately. Smith was out on the corner playing defense and filled the lane nicely after the miss. Cowan then perfectly executed the 2-on-1 break and tossed the bounce pass to the sophomore forward at just the right time for him to finish the easy layup after a big stride to the basket.

Throughout his entire Maryland career, Cowan has done a great job of drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line, but recently he has been doing it from beyond the arc and getting to the line for three shots.

On this play, Maryland used a couple screens at the top of the key to get the ball in Cowan’s hands. With the shot clock winding down, he sensed that he could draw the foul against Watts because his hand was down to the side of him. Cowan went up for the three and promptly heard the whistle from the ref, and consequently hit all three free throws.

Cowan finished this game 24 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field and a perfect 9-for-9 mark from the free throw line. He also recorded four rebounds, two assists and two steals.

While the obvious improvement for Smith as he has become one of the best big men in the country and a potential All-American candidate has been his three-point shooting, he has also become dominant in the low post.

On this play, Smith had the positioning and space needed to back Tillman down for a shot around the basket, but he instead chose to beat him with the face-up jumper. Smith has been lethal in the mid-range recently as defenses have put a greater emphasis on guarding him on the perimeter.

This play was one of Smith’s most impressive plays of the night. Maryland got out in transition and he ran to the rim and filled his lane perfectly. Wiggins looked up at Smith a little too late, as he was already under the basket when he received the ball, but the big man adjusted.

Smith got the ball, used a pump fake and made the tough layup in light of some serious contact from his defender, which the refs could have looked at as a potential flagrant foul. Smith’s ability to finish around the rim like this has improved so much over the course of this season, and it was a big reason why the Terps were able to stay in this game after playing pretty poorly offensively for much of the second half.

The star big man finished the night with 17 points on 8-for-14 shooting and recorded 10 rebounds to put together his eighth straight double-double. It’s no coincidence that Maryland’s eight game win streak has coincided with Smith’s phenomenal streak of eight straight double-doubles.

Other standout plays

Between the trio of Eric Ayala, Donta Scott and Wiggins, there were flashes of brilliance in this game, but also some tough moments. We’ll focus on the brilliant plays during this last section of the breakdown.

On this play, we really saw the star potential in Wiggins. The sophomore guard got the ball on the perimeter, drove baseline on his man and hit an incredibly tough jumper for two points.

Ayala had a really nice stretch for the Terps towards the end of the first half, and this was probably his best play of them all.

The sophomore got the ball in transition for the Terps and drove to the hoop. He could have dished it to Smith, who filled the lane nicely, but Ayala chose to take it himself, converting an extremely tough layup over Cassius Winston.

Scott has started to look a lot more aggressive offensively and this play was a tremendous example of it.

The freshman got the ball at the perimeter and powered his way right to the middle of the lane. He gathered quickly and was able to convert the tough layup in a big spot for the Terps when all the momentum was trending in Michigan State’s direction.