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TT Court Vision: A look at Anthony Cowan Jr.’s final season at Maryland

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We take to the film room to look at the point guard’s top plays from the 2019-20 season.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Jordan broke down Jalen Smith’s sophomore year. Next up is Anthony Cowan Jr., another Terp who had a historic season for Maryland men’s basketball.

Despite having his senior season cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cowan ended his Terp career as the all-time program leader in consecutive starts, made free-throws and minutes. He went down in the record books with the seventh-most points, fifth-most assists, fourth-most double-figure games and third-most three-pointers in school history.

He ended the 2019-20 campaign as a First Team All-Big Ten selection by coaches and Second Team All-Big Ten by media.

Throughout his time at Maryland, Cowan’s game became known for two aspects; his speed and quickness to finish layups down low, as well as his ability to hit big shots from deep. So for his film review session, I wanted to take a deeper look at the areas Cowan improved on the most in his senior season, as he took his game to another level after receiving feedback from NBA scouts over the summer, before diving into some of his more signature moves.

Let’s take a look at Cowan’s top plays from 2019-20.

Cowan’s 2019-20 final stat line: 16.3 points, 4.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. 39.0 percent field goal percentage, 32.2 percent three-point percentage and 81.1 percent free-throw percentage.

Passing and ball-control

Whenever he sat down to talk with media after a game, the first thing Cowan did was take a glance at the stat sheet placed in front of him. Each time, without fail, the first stat he looked at was his assist to turnover ratio. That was always more important than the points — always.

Going into his senior season, one of Cowan’s biggest points of emphasis was limiting turnovers because he knew it was key to both Maryland’s success and his own growth as a player. And his efforts over the offseason without a doubt paid off. The point guard showed key leadership as a facilitator for the Terps all season while producing the best assist to turnover ratio of his career.

Anthony Cowan Jr. AST by season

Season Games Played Assists Turnovers Ratio
Season Games Played Assists Turnovers Ratio
2019-20 31 147 69 2.1
2018-19 34 150 94 1.6
2017-18 32 164 89 1.8
2016-17 33 123 76 1.6

Facing a 2-3 zone against then-No. 18 Iowa on Jan. 30, Cowan was nearly set up to launch a triple from the corner, but he hesitated and made the smarter decision once he saw Joe Wieskamp coming his way.

The senior quickly spotted a hole in the defense and threw a bounce pass between two Hawkeye defenders to Darryl Morsell, who went up to score on a near-dunk. A younger player may have tried to go for an overhead pass, however Cowan not only saw the opportunity but knew better than to risk having the ball picked off mid-air by a lurking Luka Garza.

This senior day pass from Cowan shows the epitome of his growth over his four years at Maryland, and in my opinion, was his best play in the Terps’ Big Ten title clinching victory.

The point guard used his speed to get past Zavier Simpson and drive into the paint, but Isaiah Livers came over for help defense towards the basket. A younger Cowan would have continued to battle for the contested layup, but the senior instead saw his defender start to reach and pulled off a perfectly executed pass to Eric Ayala on the wing for the triple and 10-point lead.

This sequence is somewhat similar to the prior one, but the pass and vision from Cowan is even more astounding. He drove into the paint past numerous defenders and then soared a pass between two Wildcats to Ayala, who drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc.

I still am in awe that the senior managed to not only see a wide-open Ayala, but completed the pass in midair with ease to give Maryland a lead over Northwestern en route to the team’s first road win of the season.

Between this play and the one above, it’s clear that Cowan and Ayala developed strong chemistry over their two years together in College Park, and it paid off big time for the Terps this season.

On this play against Marquette in the Orlando Invitational championship, Cowan helped force the steal and then took the ball in transition. As he drove towards the basket, he found Donta Scott, who soared in from behind him for the dunk.

Earlier in his career, Cowan may have tried to go the layup with just one defender on him. But he realized that Scott more of an open look and made the unselfish decision for an easy two points.

On the play above, Cowan once again showed his improved ability to scan the floor and make the right decision in a matter of seconds.

After he dribbled to the top right of the arc, Cowan recognized Purdue defenders Isaiah Thompson and Matt Haarms trying to collapse in on him. The senior threw a skip pass across the court to the opposite corner, where Aaron Wiggins sunk a triple. And in case you didn’t know, Haarms is 7’3.

The senior had seven assists in the 57-50 win against the Boilermakers, which at the time was a season-high. Cowan went on to have at least seven assists in four additional games, including tying a career-high 10 dimes in a victory over Nebraska.

Mid-range magic

While his signature move inside is undoubtedly the layup, Cowan showed off a lot more of his mid-range game this season. He didn’t go to it nearly as much as his shots on other parts of the floor, but he was able to recognize key opportunities and execute some pretty impressive finishes, further showing off his underrated versatility.

Cowan’s ability to pull off the step-back jumper is often overlooked, and he showed how dangerous it can be on this play. The senior drove past Brad Davison, at which point the Badger defenders expected him to continue going left for his signature layup.

Instead, Cowan pivoted to his right, jumped back from a duo of defenders and let the shot fly over 6’11 Micah Potter in one fell swoop. This is just another example of how size is often no match for the point guard if he maintains a calm presence in the face of the defense.

He finished with 16 points, three rebounds and three assists, though Maryland couldn’t pull off the victory after a late-game fumble on an inbounds play.

Cowan once again showed off his finesse with a pull-back jumper in this instance against Michigan State. After he burst past the Big Ten logo, a quartet of Spartans came his way. With the shot clot winding down and no open teammates in sight, Cowan pivoted and created just enough space to execute the shot for two.

The Bowie, Maryland, native has often been overlooked throughout his career due to his size, but if he can consistently pull off moves like this, he’s due for success at the next level — whether that be in the NBA or overseas.

Tough finishes

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Cowan is an and-one machine. Now, that isn’t anything new for the 6’0 point guard, who has always been able to use his speed to weave through defenders, but he made much smarter decisions on when to go for the play in the paint during his senior season.

It would take way too much of your time to go through all of his impressive finishes down low, but here are some of the best.

This play is just one example of Cowan’s dynamic ability to use his speed to get past defenses and sink layups with ease.

Kobe King started to chase behind Cowan as soon as he took off towards the basket from the top of the arc. But the Terp zoomed past him and any other Badgers that tried to get in his way, escaping through three defenders before rising up to bank his shot off the glass.

The speedy guard had a similar play here, in which he simply outpaced a barrage of defenders to find his way to the basket and score the layup. There aren’t many in college basketball who do this move as well as him.

Cowan had an impressive showing in this victory over Ohio State, finishing with 20 points on 4-of-9 shooting, along with six rebounds and two assists. He had nine contests in which he scored 20 points or more on the year, doing so for the second consecutive season.

The matchup between Cowan and fellow senior guard Markus Howard was a highly anticipated one as Maryland took on Marquette in the Orlando Invitational championship on Dec. 1. The Terp had the edge here for the and-one play.

Cowan pushed hard into the paint, drawing a foul from Howard as he let off a jumper. After getting the bucket, he completed the and-one play with a made free throw.

Triumphant triples

Cowan hit a lot of big shots from deep this season, coming up clutch for the Terps at desperate times, despite shooting the worst percentage of his career from deep at 32.2 percent (though to be fair, most players decreased their accuracy from deep with the line extension this season).

There were a lot of key moments, from the Illinois comeback at Xfinity Center, to a barrage of triples to shift the tides at Michigan State — and let’s be honest, we’ve talked about them at length on Testudo Times. So, instead of going through a few individually, check out this compilation I made of his biggest three-pointers of 2019-20.