For Terps, fresh­men prove to be big shots

MARY­LAND 86, OHIO STATE 77

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY RO­MAN STUBBS

Mary­land guard An­thony Cowan Jr. ar­rived at Xfin­ity Cen­ter early be­fore Satur­day’s game against Ohio State, hoist­ing jumpers alone. Al­ready driven with a ma­ni­a­cal work ethic, Cowan had pushed him­self to spend more time in the gym shoot­ing over the past week, won­der­ing each time whether it would help him break out of a scor­ing slump.

On Thurs­day, he had a oneon-one talk with Coach Mark Tur­geon, who told Cowan that he wanted two things over the fi­nal seven games of the reg­u­lar sea­son: He wanted the fresh­man to lead the Big Ten in as­sists and de­fend­ing over that stretch. Less than 48 hours later, in an 86-77 win over the Buck­eyes, Cowan re­sponded to that di­rec­tive with his most ex­plo­sive of­fen­sive per­for­mance of the sea­son. He tied a ca­reer high with 19 points and pro­vided a cru­cial three-pointer with 41 sec­onds re­main­ing, a dag­ger with the shot clock run­ning low af­ter the Buck­eyes had pulled within five points.

He was com­ple­mented by fel­low fresh­man Kevin Huerter, who fin­ished with 18 points and also had hit a clutch three-pointer a minute ear­lier, which helped Mary­land (21-4, 9-3 Big Ten) snap a two-game los­ing streak and re­cap­ture its lategame moxie just seven days af­ter it blew a 12-point lead in a 73-72 loss to Pur­due.

The ur­gency was pal­pa­ble in Mary­land’s per­for­mance Satur­day, es­pe­cially af­ter the strug­gles in Tues­day’s 70-64 loss at Penn State. A three-game los­ing streak head­ing into next week’s road trips to North­west­ern and Wisconsin sim­ply would have

been dis­as­trous for Tur­geon’s team, and on a day in which leg­endary for­mer coach Lefty Driesell had his ban­ner raised in the rafters, en­er­giz­ing a sold-out crowd even be­fore tip-off, Mary­land played with pas­sion from the on­set.

“We looked like a team through­out the whole game,” Tur­geon said.

Satur­day will be re­mem­bered as Driesell’s day, and Cowan made sure it wasn’t soured. He took con­trol as his back­court mate, ju­nior Melo Trim­ble, fell quiet of­fen­sively for long stretches and scored just 10 points on 3-for-11 shoot­ing. That ended up be­ing enough against the shorthanded Buck­eyes (1511, 5-8).

“I think that’s good for him. If other guys are tak­ing shots, it takes pres­sure off him and he doesn’t have to score as much,” Huerter said of Trim­ble.

Cowan had hit just 9 of 37 from the field in his pre­vi­ous five games, in­clud­ing 0 of 5 in Tues­day’s loss at Penn State, but he nailed his first three-pointer within the first three min­utes of the game. A weight had come off his chest at that point. It was his first three since a win over Iowa on Jan. 19, and it helped spot Mary­land an early 9-0 lead as Ohio State missed its first nine shots.

The Ter­rap­ins took com­mand also be­cause of the dis­par­ity in depth. Ohio State was with­out start­ing for­ward JaQuan Lyle and top re­serve Keita Bates-Diop, both of whom didn’t make the trip be­cause of fam­ily emer­gen­cies. That es­sen­tially cut the Buck­eyes’ ro­ta­tion to seven. Mary­land held a 20-0 ad­van­tage in bench points in the first 20 min­utes, which in­cluded re­serve Jaylen Brantley scor­ing eight points in 73 sec­onds to make it a 12-point game with just un­der eight min­utes re­main­ing in the first half.

Mary­land’s bench, which outscored the Buck­eyes 33-0 on Satur­day in to­tal, had not con­trib­uted more than 19 points in any of its pre­vi­ous four games.

With Mary­land’s front­court fall­ing into foul trou­ble early in the sec­ond half — Da­monte Dodd and Justin Jack­son were both stranded on the bench with three fouls apiece — Ohio State made its charge. It cut Mary­land’s lead to 56-50 with 13:05 re­main­ing thanks to a pair of three-point­ers from Marc Lov­ing (24 points) and C.J. Jack­son (13 points).

Both Cowan and Huerter seemed steeled by what had hap­pened on this court ear­lier in con­fer­ence play — not only in vic­to­ries but also in crush­ing de­feats to Ne­braska and Pur­due, both of which had ral­lied from dou­ble-digit deficits in the sec­ond half to win. That wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen Satur­day — not even with Trim­ble re­main­ing quiet and the front­court in foul trou­ble.

It helped that Ohio State’s two big men, Trevor Thomp­son and Micah Pot­ter, both fouled out be­fore the four-minute mark of the sec­ond half. But the Buck­eyes still trimmed the lead to 77-72 on a pair of Lov­ing three­p­oint­ers with 2:43 left. Tur­geon called a time­out. The play that Tur­geon drew up broke down and left Huerter look­ing at a 25-footer with the shot clock run­ning out. He didn’t hes­i­tate and nailed it, smil­ing de­vi­ously at his bench with 2:09 re­main­ing.

“I told him, you know your last three there was an over and back . . . he was so far out when he hit it,” Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said later of Huerter, who hit three of Mary­land’s 12 three­p­oint­ers.

Af­ter Ohio State pulled within five again on a three-pointer of its own, it was Cowan’s turn to be a baby-faced as­sas­sin. He too had to im­pro­vise his own three­p­ointer with the shot clock run­ning down with un­der a minute to play. But he had a re­newed sense of con­fi­dence Satur­day. He nailed the pull-up three­p­ointer and later added two more free throws — he hit all 10 of his free throw at­tempts — as both he and his team briefly cel­e­brated re­demp­tion af­ter their most try­ing stretch of the sea­son.

“I just want to make sure I can help my team,” said Cowan, who also had four as­sists. “And to­day I was able to make those shots.”

JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Kevin Huerter fin­ished with 18 points for Mary­land, in­clud­ing a three-pointer with 2:09 left.

PHO­TOS BY JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

A pregame cer­e­mony to honor for­mer Mary­land bas­ket­ball coach Lefty Driesell seemed to in­spire the Ter­rap­ins, who jumped to a 9-0 lead.

Guard An­thony Cowan Jr. was one of two fresh­men to make a clutch three-pointer in the fi­nal min­utes of a vic­tory over Ohio State.

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