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No. 15 Maryland men’s basketball beats No. 18 Iowa, 82-72, behind Anthony Cowan Jr., Jalen Smith

COLLEGE PARK — For the past three weeks, Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon made vague references to his team’s 18-point loss at Iowa, as if not mentioning the specifics would help the Terps forget their most disappointing performance of the season.

That dismal trip to Iowa City was put further in Maryland’s rearview mirror Thursday night, as the No. 15 Terps, led by senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomore forward Jalen Smith, beat the No. 18 Hawkeyes, 82-72, at Xfinity Center, for their fourth straight victory.

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With Cowan scoring a career-high 31 points, passing Walt Williams for 12th on the school’s all-time scoring list, Maryland (17-4, 7-3 Big Ten) stopped the five-game winning streak that Iowa (15-6, 6-4) started with its win over the Terps. Cowan also had six assists and six rebounds.

“It was probably his best game, I don’t know,” Turgeon said. “The thing is, the game’s so much easier for him, because he figured out how to play it. He got tired of us getting on him and showing him film. He just flipped. He’s become this terrific, understanding basketball player."

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Asked if the game has become easier, Cowan said: “I don’t know about easier, but definitely it’s slowed down for me a little bit in terms of just trying to make the right decision with the ball. That’s what I tried to do tonight.”

Given how far the Terps have come since their loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the victory seemed more than a routine home win for a team that has yet to lose this season (12-0) in front of its fans, which Tuesday included students who returned earlier this week from winter break.

“I just feel like I survived something tonight,” Turgeon said. “It’s a really good win. This league’s amazing.”

Smith — who won Big Ten Player of the Week after leading the Terps to back-to-back road wins at Northwestern and Indiana while averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds — finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots. It was his 12th double double of the season and fourth straight.

“When you play them, you want to mark Cowan and Smith, and they had 49," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "We didn’t do a good enough on those two guys.”

Junior center Luka Garza, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, scored 21 points for the Hawkeyes, but was in foul trouble for most of the game and finished with just four rebounds. Garza, one of the favorites for Big Ten Player of the Year, picked up his first two fouls less than two minutes into the game.

Despite Garza being on the bench for long stretches of the first half, Iowa maintained an early lead until a run late in the half gave the Terps a 36-32 halftime lead. After Garza picked up his fourth personal with 7:55 left in the game, the Terps pulled away to as much as a 13-point lead.

“They played well in that stretch, give them credit for that,” McCaffery said. “When they got in the bonus, they made every one [23 of 26 overall from the free-throw line], give them credit for that. We’re a different team with Luka. The more he’s out there, the better we are. That kind of changes everything."

Asked what he did to defend Garza — three of his career-tying five blocks came against the 6-11, 260-pound junior — Smith said, “Pretty much playing to our scouting report and making sure I stayed between him and the basket, fighting his post up and trying to limit his touches.”

Maryland also did a better job on sophomore guard Joe Wieskamp, who had scored a career-high 26 points in his team’s 67-49 win over the Terps on Jan. 10. Wieskamp hit a couple of quick 3-pointers Thursday, but wound up with 17 points on 5-for-17 shooting against junior guard Darryl Morsell and sophomore wing Aaron Wiggins.

“We just locked in, we got better defensively in the second half,” Turgeon said. “Early we were switching screens, and we thought it was the way to guard him and it wasn’t and he got one we went went under a ball screen and that wasn’t very smart. And then we fouled him on a 3. Darryl and Wiggs really good defenders. I met with Darryl Tuesday and said, ‘You’ve lost your identity, you’ve got to get it back.'”

Despite not having a good night shooting — making just five of a career-high 18 attempts, including two of nine from 3-point range — Wiggins finished with 14 points to go along with five rebounds in nearly 30 minutes off the bench. Wiggins looked like a completely different player than he did at Iowa, when he went scoreless for the first time in his college career and played just 16 minutes.

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The Terps looked like a completely different team.

“I think everybody’s kind of bought into the fact that no wins come easy,” Wiggins said. “That we have to show up for every game, we have to be locked in to every game and our defense has to travel, regardless of where we are, regardless of who we’re playing. If our defense is there, we have a chance. Everybody’s locked in and defensively we’re playing really well. That’s what’s getting us W’s.”

Said McCaffery: “They were really aggressive off the bounce [the dribble], which they’re normally going to be whether we’re man or zone. They’re a difficult team to guard. I thought they made good decisions, they penetrated and got people involved.”

No. 25 Rutgers@No. 15 Maryland

Tuesday, 7 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

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