Schmuck: Terps get their groove back, but can they keep it?

Everything seemed to click in the second half of Maryland’s 77-66 victory over Minnesota in Thursday night, which could bode well for the remainder of the Big Ten season.

Or not.

The Terps delivered a balanced offensive performance that featured four players scoring in double digits and a big emphasis on feeding the ball inside, which allowed Kevin Huerter to get into a shooting rhythm not seen since Maryland trounced UMBC three weeks ago.

That’s what it figures to take for the Terps to reassert themselves as a potential NCAA tournament team after losing three of their previous four games, but they’ll have to do it on more of a regular basis during the second half of a tough conference schedule to assure themselves a fourth straight trip to the Big Dance.

Right now, that remains in doubt as coach Mark Turgeon continues to search for the right offensive chemistry in the wake of the season-ending injuries to Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender. But the Terps showed resilience, bouncing back from that heartbreaking last-second loss at Michigan.

“We’re getting better,’’ Turgeon said. “The guys know this is our team. This is what we’ve got. We’ve been practicing well. We’re really determined and we’ve got to get better on the road to be where we want to be.”

Even with Bruno Fernando in foul trouble and two other big men already lost for the season, the Gophers could not keep Huerter and Anthony Cowan Jr. from repeatedly teeing up center Michal Cekovsky for easy dunks and layups.

That forced a banged-up Minnesota team to drop down and left Huerter with enough open looks to score a team-high 19 points while Cowan delivered a career-high 10 assists. Cekovsky let a few potential assists go to waste, but still made seven of 10 shots inside on the way to a 17-point performance.

“We did a lot of great things,’’ Turgeon said. “We shared the ball. We’re getting better and we responded. We were mentally tough tonight, especially in the second half. Good win for us.”

The Terps need to carry that momentum into a winnable game at Indiana, because they’ve got No. 9 Michigan State and No. 3 Purdue lined up right behind them.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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