Terps hold off Penn State, 66-59, to open Big Ten play with a vic­tory.

MARY­LAND 66, PENN STATE 59 Cowan’s three-pointer is de­ci­sive blow

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY EMILY GIAMBALVO [email protected]­post.com

Af­ter An­thony Cowan Jr. hit a three-pointer as the shot clock ex­pired, the Xfin­ity Cen­ter crowd’s roar nearly made the an­nouncer’s score up­date in­audi­ble with 34 sec­onds to go in Satur­day’s game.

“When the shot clock’s go­ing down, you’ve got to shoot it,” Cowan said. “That kind of takes a lit­tle pres­sure off, and I’m able to knock them down.”

The ju­nior guard’s shot pushed No. 24 Mary­land’s lead over Penn State from two points to five, the de­ci­sive blow in a 66-59 win for the Terps in their Big Ten opener.

“That’s what a great player does,” Penn State Coach Pat Cham­bers said of Cowan, who had nine points in the fi­nal 10 min­utes. “We knew he was a great player and tried to get the ball out of his hands, but he was very crafty and made some big shots.”

On top of Cowan’s 15 points, Bruno Fer­nando fin­ished with 12 points and 13 re­bounds, mak­ing him the first Mary­land player to record three con­sec­u­tive dou­ble-dou­bles since 2011. Fer­nando notched three dou­ble­dou­bles his en­tire fresh­man season; as a sopho­more, he al­ready has four.

Jalen Smith led the Terps (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) with 16 points, and Coach Mark Tur­geon said the fresh­man also had his best game of the year de­fen­sively. Smith has scored in dou­ble dig­its in ev­ery game of his young ca­reer ex­cept for Wed­nes­day’s loss to No. 4 Vir­ginia.

“It was just me for­get­ting the last game be­cause that did have a toll on me, the way I played; I didn’t think I played so well,” Smith said when asked what made the dif­fer­ence in his play Satur­day. “I just went into this game for­get­ting what­ever hap­pened in the past.”

The win gave the Terps a suc­cess­ful start to their Big Ten cam­paign af­ter they fin­ished last season 8-10 in con­fer­ence play and were knocked out in the sec­ond round of the Big Ten tour­na­ment. Against Penn State, Mary­land never had a dou­bledigit lead, and the Nit­tany Lions con­tin­ued to chal­lenge the Terps, who en­tered the game com­ing off the emo­tional loss to Vir­ginia.

“I had a lot of con­ver­sa­tions with some play­ers Thurs­day, just try­ing to get them back men­tally to where we needed to be,” Tur­geon said. “I thought men­tally we were pretty good to­day con­sid­er­ing what we went through.”

The teams played an ugly first half. Penn State (4-3, 0-1) made just one of its first 12 field goal at­tempts but warmed up as the half pro­gressed and fin­ished the pe­riod shoot­ing 42 per­cent. Penn State com­mit­ted 16 fouls and Mary­land had 10 turnovers in the half. All eight of Fer­nando’s first-half points came from the free throw line. Mary­land missed 11 of 13 field goal at­tempts to close the first half and trailed at in­ter­mis­sion 31-30.

But Fer­nando dunked at the start of the sec­ond half to give the Terps the lead. Then Smith hit a three-pointer fol­lowed by a layup. Cowan scored off a fast break, cap­ping a 9-2 Mary­land run and forc­ing Penn State to take a time­out.

Smith had just six points in the Vir­ginia game and didn’t play much in the sec­ond half when Tur­geon opted to go with a smaller lineup. On Satur­day, Smith guarded La­mar Stevens, Penn State’s best player. Stevens missed his first four shots but fin­ished with 19 points on 24 shots.

“That’s a huge deal to­day, what Stix did,” Tur­geon said of Smith. “Let’s not take that lightly. That’s a heck of a player that he was guard­ing. For Stix to take that next step for us was re­ally big.”

Turnovers con­tinue to be an is­sue for the Terps, who fin­ished with 17.

In the loss against Vir­ginia, Mary­land had 14 turnovers com­pared with Vir­ginia’s two.

“We’ve got to fix it,” Tur­geon said. “If we’re go­ing to be any good on the road, we’ve got to fix it.”

Eight games into the season, Mary­land has pri­mar­ily re­lied on a ro­ta­tion of six play­ers: usual starters Fer­nando, Smith, Eric Ayala, Dar­ryl Morsell and Cowan, in ad­di­tion to Aaron Wig­gins off the bench. Those Terps had all av­er­aged more than 24 min­utes per game be­fore Satur­day. Be­hind that group, no Mary­land player has av­er­aged more than 13 min­utes.

On Satur­day, the top six all played at least 23 min­utes, and those play­ers were the only ones on Mary­land’s team to at­tempt a shot.

“We wanted to win the game,” Tur­geon said. “That’s what’s im­por­tant. Our locker room is re­ally happy right now. So we coached to win the game to­day.”

TONI L. SANDYS/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Fresh­man Jalen Smith, who led the Ter­rap­ins with 16 points, also played his best de­fen­sive game of the year, Coach Mark Tur­geon said.

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