With just over four minutes remaining and No. 7 Maryland men’s basketball holding onto a six point lead against Northwestern, Jalen Smith jumped up and secured his 17th rebound of the night.
Following the rebound, Smith waited underneath the basket until Anthony Cowan Jr. drove down the lane and threw him a lob. The Baltimore big man caught the pass and threw down a dunk that electrified the Xfinity Crowd and kept the team’s offense alive, sparking a 6-0 run to create some separation.
The sophomore’s play helped push the Terps to a 76-67 victory over the Wildcats — their ninth consecutive win.
“He actually doing even better than I imagined this year — and even two months ago in December,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I wasn’t sure we could get to this so fast ... Offensively he really helps us space the floor and then tonight he was really good around the basket, which was great to see.”
Smith finished with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the floor, along with a career-high 19 rebounds, notching his ninth straight double-double, which is the longest active streak in the nation. And he hit the mark just 15 minutes into the game.
Unlike last time these two teams met, Maryland had a much better showing defensively to start the game, allowing the Wildcats only one field goal for the first eight minutes of play.
Near the 14-minute mark of the first half, Smith forced forward Jared Jones into an elbow jumpshot, which clanked off the backboard. After the Terps gathered the rebound, Cowan pushed the pace up the floor where he lobbed a pass to Smith, who finished the dunk with Jones draped on him for the and-one opportunity.
After completing the three-point play with his free throw, the Terps forced the Wildcats into their second turnover of the night. Once again, Cowan dribbled the ball up the court and found Smith for his second dunk of the night, finishing off a 7-0 run by Maryland and giving his team a 15-6 lead.
Northwestern freshman guard Boo Buie finally ended his team’s field goal drought at the 12-minute mark, but prior to his made three-pointer, Maryland allowed the Wildcats to only make two of their first 10 shots.
Buie kept Northwestern within an arm’s reach, scoring nine of his team’s next 16 points in a span just under eight minutes.
With just under four minutes remaining in the first half, Eric Ayala sparked a 9-0 run for the Terps. The sophomore guard found Darryl Morsell alone in the corner and passed him the ball for his first three-pointer of the night.
After Maryland forced Wildcat guard Pat Spencer into a fadeaway jump shot on the other end, Ayala passed the ball to Aaron Wiggins near the same corner for the Terps’ second three-pointer in about 40 seconds.
At the 1:53 mark, Ayala ended the large Maryland run by hitting his own three-pointer to give his team a 12-point lead — its largest to that point.
The Terps controlled the final possession of the half, allowing Cowan to find Morsell under the basket. Instead of putting up a contested layup, Morsell threw the ball to the rim — a common occurrence in the first half for team — for Smith’s third dunk of the night, putting Maryland up 37-25 at half.
“It’s normal between me and Darryl,” Smith said. “But it’s great because he had a wide open layup, and he just gave it up for me. So I [gave him] props on that.”
But Maryland’s once 12-point lead dwindled down to only five with over 15 minutes to play as the Wildcats hit six of their first seven shots to start the game. Buie, once again, provided scoring for his team by capping off a 7-0 run by making a pullup jumper over Cowan.
While Northwestern scored 19 points through the first eight minutes, Maryland struggled to score the ball and only had nine points in that same amount of time.
“I thought we defended really well the first half,” Turgeon said. “Start of the second half, we weren’t very good — they had 19 points the first eight minutes and 25 at halftime.”
While their lead was one point higher against Nebraska on Feb 11, the Terps began the second half in an eerily similar fashion, allowing their lesser opponent to remain in the game.
Following Buie’s jumper, Cowan drove the middle of the lane and rocketed a pass to Smith, who took one dribble and then was blocked. The sophomore gathered himself and put back a layup over two other Wildcats — the Terps’ last field goal for 3:26.
Northwestern forward Miller Kopp played a large role in keeping his team close in the second half. With the Terps holding onto a nine-point lead with over eight minutes remaining, Kopp made his second three-pointer of the night. Instead of the Terps locking up stops and going on a run of their own, Kopp landed another jumpshot less than a minute later.
Maryland struggled to take advantage of its opportunities in the second half. With over five minutes remaining a loose ball created dogpile near the Wildcats’ bucket. The Terps were awarded possession, but after a Turgeon timeout, were unable to come away with any points.
At the 1:20 mark in the second half, Smith grabbed an offensive rebound form a Morsell three-pointer and was fouled, sending him to the line. He made both free throws, giving his team a nine-point cushion.
“I think everyone’s probably had enough of [Smith] when he does this against everybody,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “Because he’s a terrific player.”
With the Terps needing one last stop, Cowan jumped a pass, which tipped off a Wildcat. The senior continued to run down the court raising his arms as the crowd rose out of their seats in celebration of the victory.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s home stand becomes historic. With their win today, the Terps remain undefeated at home with a 15-0 record — the same record they had in 2001-02 when they won a national championship. Maryland also remains undefeated at home against Northwestern, which has now lost all five of its meetings with the Terps in College Park.
2. Anthony Cowan Jr. passes Tom McMillen on all-time scoring list. With 3:58 remaining in the contest, the senior guard notched his 18th point on a free throw, passing Tom McMillen for the No. 8 spot on Maryland’s all-time scoring list. With his 19 points, Cowan now has 1,809 for his Terps career. He also made two three-pointers, tying Mike Jones for the No. 3 spot in career three-pointers made with 203.
“[It is] super special. To be honest, my teammates are probably more into it than I am — in terms of passing people in scoring and all that,” Cowan said. “But I’m very appreciative when you’ve got teammates that support you and vice versa.”
3. Darryl Morsell sets new career high in assists. In Maryland’s last game against Michigan State Saturday, Morsell tied a career-high six assists. On Tuesday night, the junior continued to pass the ball well on his 21st birthday, setting a new career-high with seven assists. He also scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds.