Maryland men’s basketball kept the good times rolling Feb. 18 in College Park, Md., holding serve at home with a 76-67 victory over Northwestern.
The No. 7-ranked Terps (22-4, 12-3 Big Ten) were never in serious danger of an upset at the hands of the last-place Wildcats (6-19, 1-14), as they never trailed and led for 39:43. Maryland took a 37-25 lead into halftime, but Northwestern started the second half hot and trimmed the margin as low as three. Mark Turgeon’s team responded, though, and led by 12 in the final minute before coming out on top by nine.
Jalen Smith was the star once again, amassing 22 points and a career-high 19 rebounds — one board shy of becoming the first Terp to record a 20-20 game since Joe Smith in the 1995 NCAA Tournament. Anthony Cowan Jr. was right behind with 19 points, while Darryl Morsell notched 13 and Donta Scott added 12. The Terps actually shot worse from the field (41 percent) than Northwestern (42.9 percent), but advantages on the boards (41-33) and at the line (18-of-22 to 6-of-8) kept them ahead throughout.
Here’s a rundown of the storylines from Maryland’s ninth consecutive win.
1. This was in many ways a spitting image of the Terps’ win against Nebraska last week — another Tuesday night home game against one of the two Big Ten cellar-dwellers. Maryland led 38-25 at halftime of that one and 37-25 at halftime of this one. Both the Huskers and Wildcats started the second half hot, making 7-of-9 and 7-of-10 field goals out of the break, respectively. But after almost completely blowing the game Feb. 11, Maryland kept a safe distance down the stretch of this one.
2. Both teams ran their offense through their big men. Smith, as mentioned above, almost dropped a 20-20. The sophomore made 8 of 14 field goals despite going just 1-of-5 from 3-point range. He was a force in the paint, finishing with five dunks, two layups and six offensive rebounds. Yet Northwestern freshman Ryan Young held his own on the other end, going 8-of-11 for a team-high 17 points alongside eight rebounds.
3. Maryland is now 13-0 when Morsell scores in double figures, and this was one of his most well-rounded performances of the season. The junior added seven rebounds and a team-high seven assists to fill up the stat sheet, and he played his usual solid defense on Northwestern guards Boo Buie and Pat Spencer.
4. Scott got involved early, taking four shots and scoring five points before the first media timeout. He also picked up two early fouls, which ultimately limited him to just 19 minutes, but his 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-3 from distance) are welcome contributions at any time. The freshman is averaging 9.5 points in his last four games, tallying at least seven in each contest.
5. Maryland’s offense controlled the ball as well as it has all year — the Terps committed just five turnovers, tying the Jan. 26 tally against Indiana for their season low. They also dished out 17 assists on their 25 made field goals, including 12 of their first 13. Maryland is 19-0 when finishing with at least 12 assists and 15-0 when committing fewer than 14 turnovers.
6. Eric Ayala’s shooting struggles returned, as the sophomore went just 1-of-8 from the floor and 1-of-5 from distance to finish with three points. He had a good second half against Illinois, a season-high 16 points against Nebraska and a nine-point first half at Michigan State, but he’s now just 1-of-15 since that strong start in East Lansing, Mich.
7. Shooting woes have nagged Maryland as a team this season, and that trend returned in the second half. After going 7-of-17 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes Feb. 18, the Terps went just 1-of-13 after intermission. I don’t have to explain to you that this is less than ideal.
8. With his 19-point performance, Cowan continues his ascent on Maryland’s all-time scoring list. He’s now up to 1,809 career points, passing Tom McMillen for eighth most in program history. Cowan will need somewhat of a run in one or both postseason tournaments to have a chance at reaching 2,000, but it’s very much in play.
9. Once again, the Terps’ extended rotation functioned primarily to give the top six a breather. Serrel Smith Jr. logged eight minutes, while Ricky Lindo played three and Chol Marial entered for two. None of the three scored, and only Smith took the court in the second half. This is still the most glaring hole in this basketball team, and Maryland might be running out of time to change the tune.
10. Maryland got some good news Feb. 18 well before its own game was over, as Illinois came out victorious at No. 9 Penn State a few hours north. The Nittany Lions had won eight straight and reached 10-4 in Big Ten play, but now Maryland is in first place by two games with just five contests remaining. There’s still work to do, but a regular-season league title is well within reach.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox