MADISON, WIS. — After Friday’s 18-point loss at Iowa, Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon said he would have preferred his Terps go down with some sort of fight, as they did in previous road losses at Penn State and Seton Hall.
As he sat at the podium after Tuesday night’s 56-54 loss to Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, Turgeon still found it difficult to distinguish between one of the most disappointing performances by any of his teams in nine seasons in College Park to one he described as one of the toughest to digest.
"That’s a devastating loss, 'cause of the way we lost it right there at the end,” Turgeon said.
With the No. 17 Terps holding a one-point lead with 13 seconds left, junior guard Darryl Morsell tried to force an inbounds pass to senior guard Anthony Cowan, who was being double-teamed. Badgers guard Brad Davison deflected the ball off Morsell, who was standing behind the baseline.
Following a timeout, Davison came off a screen and nailed a 3-pointer from the corner with 9.4 seconds left. After Maryland called timeout, Cowan missed on a straightaway 3-pointer — normally his most consistent deep shot — as time ran out.
Asked if he felt better than he did leaving Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Turgeon said: “Losing anytime stinks. Really both of these have been devastating losses because we didn’t show up to play the last game, I didn’t think, and tonight we lose the way we lost. They both hurt. Our league is terrific, it’s a great league.
“We’ve stunk on the road until tonight. And tonight we were much better and we gave ourselves a chance. It’s a step in the right direction and hopefully we’ll learn from it and get better and go home and play well Saturday against a really good team and figure out a way to put a few together.”
Maryland (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten) hosts Purdue, which beat then-No. 8 Michigan State by 29 points Sunday, at home.
After trailing by as many as eight points in the first half and by five points at halftime, the Terps relied heavily on Cowan, as well as sophomores Jalen Smith and Aaron Wiggins, to carry them in the second half. Smith led the Terps with 19, while Cowan had 16 and Wiggins scored 15.
Cowan hit a 3-pointer early in the second half to give Maryland its first lead at 35-32 since he and Smith opened the game with back-to-back baskets. A 3-pointer by Wiggins, who came off the bench for the first time this season, made it 46-41 with 9:17 to go.
When Smith made a three-point play with 7:33 left to push the lead back to five at 49-44, it looked like Maryland was going to end its road miseries. After Badgers freshman Tyler Wahl missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:49 left and Cowan fed Smith for a lob dunk 18 seconds later, victory seemed close.
And then it wasn’t.
A turnover by Cowan on a similar lob to Smith was deflected, which led to a shot in the lane by junior forward Nate Reuvers, who led Wisconsin (11-5, 4-2) with 17 points. Then came the botched inbounds pass by Morsell, who had made a turnover on the same kind of play in the loss at Seton Hall.
Then finally the 3-pointers, one made by Davison and the other missed by Cowan.
Asked about Cowan’s decision to take a 3-pointer, Turgeon said: “We’ll take a 3 and win it on the road, if it’s a good look. We’ll take it, otherwise try to get downhill [for a tying layup]. I thought we shot a little quick. It’s all moving fast. Talk about a lot of things in a timeout, and you just hope you get what we want. But we blew it before that.”
Cowan’s 3-point shot was taken from nearly the same spot where Melo Trimble beat the Badgers here four years ago, the only time Maryland has won at the Kohl Center. In that game, Wisconsin missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the end.
“I just saw the defender backing up, it’s a shot that you can make, just try to get to my spot. It didn’t fall for me tonight,” said Cowan, who has hit several big late shots during his career, but no walk-off game-winners.
Cowan took the blame for the Terps not calling timeout on the costly inbounds pass by Morsell.
“It’s my fault as a leader,” he said. “I got to be there to call the timeout, but I didn’t do that. It’s on me.”
Wiggins didn’t fault Cowan for not getting to the inbounds pass or taking the potential game-winner.
“It was tough for him to get open, but I think all of us as players, we trust Anthony to get open,” Wiggins said. “It was just a tough pass Darryl made to hit him. It’s just a matter of us realizing that we had a timeout, got to be smarter than that. That’s on all us. Anyone could’ve called a timeout. You’ve got to be aware of it.”
Asked what Turgeon’s message was to his team before the final timeout, Wiggins said: “Believe. Execute. And win. There’s nobody besides Anthony Cowan in the country that I want shoot that shot. When he shot it, I thought it was going in. I knew it was going in.”
And then it didn’t.
The road losing streak continues, but Turgeon thought the Terps took a step forward in the midst of another tough ending.
“Except for turnovers we did a lot of good things, shot the ball a little better for us in the second half and then we really defended,” Turgeon said. “You’re frustrated. Obviously I didn’t draw a good enough play to get the ball inbounds. We had a timeout. We were aware of that. No one called it. Give them credit on that play.
“And then we didn’t guard that out-of-bounds [play] the way we should guard it. It felt like we were going to win the game the whole time in the second half, but I do feel better about our guys today than I did feel Friday night. We competed, we tried to do the right things, maybe we became a better team in the last three days. It’s going to help us moving forward.”
As he walked back to his team’s locker room after his postgame news conference, Turgeon was still thinking about the way the game ended.
He was thinking about Cowan, specifically.
“I’m proud of Anthony for having the confidence to take that shot,” Turgeon said. “It takes some [guts] to take that shot.”