As the seconds ticked away in Maryland basketball’s Jan. 30 game against Iowa, senior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. knew he commanded the entire building. He flexed after a rebound. He strutted up the court. He waved his arms to pump up the crowd during a dead ball.
Cowan turned in perhaps the best performance of an already-decorated Terps career, amassing a career-high 31 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the floor in leading his team to an 82-72 victory. He was a distributor early and finished with six assists. He became aggressive on the glass late and finished with six rebounds. He kept drawing fouls, and he kept making free throws, and he committed just two turnovers.
Three weeks after getting blown out by the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, Maryland controlled this game most of the way. Iowa started 4-of-7 from 3-point range and led by six early in the first half, but the Terps pulled ahead late in the frame and stayed in front for the entire second half. They finished the night shooting 45.6 percent from the field while holding Iowa to 36.2 percent on the other end.
Here’s the rundown of things that helped Maryland move to 17-4 this season and 7-3 in the Big Ten.
1. Cowan’s raw totals tell plenty of the story, but his efficiency is worth noting again. His 9-of-15 clip from the field is his best shooting percentage in a single game this season. He consistently made smart decisions, attacking Iowa’s zone defense while keeping the ball under control. After dominating at the Orlando Invitational and looking like an All-American, Cowan hasn’t played to quite the same level for most of this season — until this explosion.
“Efficient, fast, pest — he’s having fun,” head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “He looked fresh, which is great. I’ve been resting him more on practice days, and it showed tonight. He was really fresh.”
2. Iowa center Luka Garza, the likely front-runner for Big Ten Player of the Year, battled foul trouble all night long. He had two personal fouls by the first media timeout and logged just 10 first-half minutes, tallying six points and two boards in the process. Garza then picked up his third foul at the 15:32 mark and his fourth with 7:55 remaining, limiting him to 25 minutes total. He still tossed up 21 points, because he’s that good at this game, but they weren’t of much consequence.
“He’s pretty good typically at staying vertical and staying out of foul trouble, recognizing how important he is to our team and staying on the floor,” Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery said. “He’s an aggressive guy, so obviously sometimes it’ll happen.”
3. Sophomore center Jalen Smith, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, put up a relatively quiet 18 points and 14 rebounds. He went 0-for-2 on threes, but still finished 5-of-9 from the floor. And he continued to play lockdown defense, swatting five shots and contesting plenty other attempts from Garza and Ryan Kriener.
4. Maryland’s perimeter defense stepped up like it has in so many home victories this season, quieting Iowa’s guards for most of the night. Joe Wieskamp had eight early points, but didn’t score again until halfway through the second period. He finished with 17, but on 5-of-14 shooting. Similarly, Joe Toussaint and CJ Fredrick combined to shoot 6-of-22 en route to 20 total points.
5. Sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins struggled with his shot, going 5-of-18 from the floor and 2-of-9 from deep. But the sophomore kept getting good looks, and he hit just enough big shots to keep his confidence up. He finished with 14 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench.
“If he just makes three of those wide-open ones, we’re not over here sweating about it. … I think he only took maybe two bad shots,” Turgeon said. “But he defended, he rebounded, and he had a look of confidence on his face.”
6. On the flip side, junior guard Darryl Morsell had his most efficient night in weeks after a lengthy offensive slump. He knocked down four of six shots and finished with 10 points and four rebounds. While he also battled foul trouble, Morsell stayed on the floor for 32 minutes and was a plus-10.
7. Maryland bench players not named Wiggins didn’t get on the scoreboard, although Serrel Smith Jr. had a productive 11 minutes otherwise. The sophomore guard tallied five rebounds and two assists and brought solid energy on defense. Against a smaller Iowa team, forwards Ricky Lindo and Joshua Tomaic were rarely used — combining for just four minutes — and Chol Marial was once again held out of action.
8. Both teams excelled at the free-throw line, with Maryland knocking down 23 of 26 attempts and Iowa going 14-of-17. Cowan and Smith dominated here, combining to hit 18 of their 19 shots. The Terps’ 88.5 percent clip at the charity stripe is their second-best of the season, behind only last week’s 89.7 percent (26-of-29) at Northwestern.
9. This was a red-out game with a Jurassic Park theme, and Xfinity Center executed it as well as it’s executed a theme in years. The shirts were in peak form. Testudo wore a park ranger hat. The crowd roared so loud at times it could easily be confused with a group of Tyrannosaurs. And with the game in hand, it was time to eat Iowa fans on the JumboTron.
10. Maryland is now 12-0 at home this season, one of just eight power-conference teams still unbeaten in its own building. The Terps now own two ranked wins as well, and they’ve won four straight to shoot back up to third in the conference standings. The team they’re currently tied with — the Cinderella Rutgers Scarlet Knights — comes to College Park Feb. 4.
“You’ve gotta take every game like it’s your last. You’ve gotta go out there and play your hardest,” Wiggins said of the strength of the Big Ten. “One loss could drop you a couple spots and one win could put you up a couple spots. So you want to be in the best position you can be in towards the end of the season.”
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