After losing both of his experienced power forwards in a span of 36 hours last week, Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon said the Terps would have to reinvent themselves going into the remainder of the Big Ten schedule, starting Tuesday night against Penn State.
Turgeon didn’t figure on sophomore guard Kevin Huerter picking up two early fouls or freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) missing his first eight field-goal attempts. Turgeon was busy with the whiteboard on the bench at Xfinity Center.
Call it coaching on the fly.
With Huerter scoring all 13 points in the last 11 minutes, and with Morsell hitting only his second 3-pointer of the season, the Terps erased a five-point deficit to beat the Nittany Lions, 75-69, before a crowd announced at 14,374.
Sophomore guard Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland (13-3, 2-1) with 18 points, including a pair of free throws with 21.4 seconds left to build the lead to four. Freshman center Bruno Fernando finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds for his first double double. The Terps also committed a season-low five turnovers against a team that leads the Big Ten in steals.
“Coach always says that it’s not any time to feel sorry for ourselves, so due to circumstances, all we can do is play harder now,” said Cowan, who played all 40 minutes. “We’ve got to figure out ways to win like we did tonight.”
The victory helps give the Terps a little momentum after the season-long loss of both sophomore forward Justin Jackson (torn labrum) and redshirt junior forward Ivan Bender (torn meniscus) going into Thursday night’s game against No. 1 Michigan State in East Lansing.
“I never say a ‘must' win-type situation. You just don’t know what lies ahead, with what’s happened so far this year,” Turgeon said. “I was just proud of the guys. Penn State came in with confidence, made some shots, and we kept battling and battling and we figured out a way to win it. They're [his players] much more confident than they were 24 hours ago. Yeah, this was big for us.”
After the Terps struggled at the free-throw line for much of the game, missing seven of their first 15, they finished 23-for-34, compared with 2-for-4 for Penn State. Huerter made all nine of his attempts to help Maryland put the game away. Redshirt sophomore forward Mike Watkins led Penn State (11-5, 1-2) with 17 points and 17 rebounds.
Asked about the discrepancy in foul calls, Turgeon said: “I have to watch the film, but I do think we played without fouling. I think we do a nice job of that. … The second half we just talked about attacking [the basket] and we did. We got a good whistle, probably, but I think we deserve it.”
Penn State coach Pat Chambers wasn’t buying it.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t drive the basketball. We did,” Chambers said. “That’s a good officiating crew. It’s unlucky for us. They’ve got a home-court advantage here. I don’t know if that influenced it at all. It’s tough to swallow, because I thought we played some really good basketball. The two statistics we did not win are free throws and the score.”
Fernando’s getting there
It wasn’t the 39-point outburst by Diamond Stone two years ago that set a freshman school record and helped Maryland overcome a second-half deficit to beat Penn State in the Big Ten opener, but Fernando’s performance against the Nittany Lions certainly was impressive.
The 6-foot-10 Angolan, whose progress has been slowed this season after spraining both his ankles at different times, was still a dominant force inside. He was strong cleaning up others’ misses, and even hit his first midrange jumper.
“It gives me a lot of confidence [hitting an outside shot]. It changes the momentum for me in the game,” said Fernando, who made seven of 12 from the field and three of five from the free-throw line. “I’ve been frustrated because I know it’s one thing I work on a lot. I hate to see it not going in, because I’m always working on that, so whenever it goes in is always good for me.”
Huerter’s early foul troubles
Huerter, who was expected to step up his role as a scorer in the absence of Jackson and Bender, got into very early foul trouble. As a result, Huerter played just six minutes in the first half and went scoreless.
Huerter, who had been averaging less than 2.5 fouls a game. was called for two nonshooting fouls in the first 3:24 of the game, which immediately affected Turgeon’s game plan and Huerter’s ability to be aggressive.
“For Kevin to pick up two fouls before the first media [timeout] and you guys all know he’s our smartest player, you’re trying to adjust to different lineups, made it tough on us,” Turgeon said.
Despite Huerter’s playing just six minutes in the first half, Maryland led for much the half, twice building as much as a six-point lead. After missing their first eight 3-pointers, Penn State made their last three, two by sophomore guard Tony Carr and one at the halftime buzzer by junior guard Josh Reaves for a 34-30 lead.
“I thought we really guarded well the first half until the last three minutes,” Turgeon said. “We didn’t finish the half the right way. We just talked [in the locker room] about believing and be tough.”
Morsell hits big shots
Morsell came into the game shooting a respectable 45 percent from the field, even though he had made just one of his 13 3-point shots. Though in the starting lineup as much, if not more, for his defense, he needs to hit shots.
With the Nittany Lions packing in their zone to counter Fernando, and with Huerter on the bench, it left Morsell wide open on the wing. He finished the first half 0-for-6 overall, and badly missed on a pair of 3-pointers.
Yet Morsell hit what might have been the biggest shot of the game, a corner 3-pointer to tie the game at 61 and erase what had been a five-point Penn State lead. He followed it with a tough drive in the lane to help extend the lead to 65-61 after Michal Cekovsky (10 points, six rebounds) made a dunk to give the Terps a lead they wouldn’t lose.
Morsell, who finished with nine points, has been known to take so many outside shots after practice that he has to ice his right wrist.
Cowan, who struggled with his outside shooting as a freshman, said: “That’s something [taking extra shots] he has to do. That’s something everyone has to do, work on little pieces of their game that we’re not as good at. He’s definitely worked a lot. He obviously hit a big 3. We need him to keep doing that, shooting the ball with confidence.”
PENN ST. (11-5): Stevens 7-13 0-0 15, Watkins 8-11 1-2 17, Carr 6-23 1-2 16, Garner 1-5 0-0 3, Reaves 3-7 0-0 9, Harrar 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Wheeler 2-7 0-0 4, Bostick 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 29-69 2-4 69.
MARYLAND (13-3): Fernando 7-12 3-5 17, Cekovsky 5-6 0-3 10, Morsell 2-10 4-8 9, Cowan 5-14 7-9 18, Huerter 2-6 9-9 13, Tomaic 1-1 0-0 2, Wiley 1-3 0-0 3, Nickens 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 24-53 23-34 75.
Halftime—Penn St. 34-30. 3-point goals—Penn St. 9-26 (Reaves 3-5, Carr 3-8, Bostick 1-1, Stevens 1-4, Garner 1-5, Wheeler 0-3), Maryland 4-13 (Nickens 1-1, Wiley 1-2, Morsell 1-3, Cowan 1-5, Huerter 0-2). Fouled out—Stevens. Rebounds—Penn St. 34 (Watkins 17), Maryland 33 (Fernando 11). Assists—Penn St. 20 (Carr 8), Maryland 13 (Cowan 4). Total fouls—Penn St. 24, Maryland 12. A—14,374 (17,950).