COLLEGE PARK — Anthony Cowan Jr. took quite a bit from Melo Trimble when they shared the backcourt last season. Trimble left Cowan with the confidence to lead the Terps as a sophomore.
Cowan also might have taken Trimble’s clutch gene.
After missing all five 3-point shots he tried in Maryland’s first two games, Cowan hit three of the six he took Wednesday night against Butler at Xfinity Center.
They were part of a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds for Cowan. His first career double double, along with his five assists and two steals, helped lead Maryland to a 79-65 victory over the Bulldogs in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) contributed 13 points, two blocks and a steal that led to a breakaway dunk.
What was reminiscent of Trimble was that all three 3-pointers by Cowan came as the 30-second shot clock was about to expire and he barely had time to set his feet or square his shoulders.
The first helped give Maryland a 23-20 lead that was part of a 17-2 run for the Terps. The second came toward the end of the first half to make it 39-31.
But the third might have been the biggest, reminiscent of some of those miracle shots that Melo hit so often during his career. It came as the Bulldogs had chopped Maryland’s lead to 61-56.
“The last one was a big one, because we were in good position. We had done a good job on that possession, and then he heaves one up from about 36 feet, and it goes in,” Butler coach LaVall Jordan said. “He’s got the courage to do it. Like I said, he's a good player. I thought all of them were big. You look up and we’re defending, we’re in the right place, the right spot, and the guy steps up and makes a shot. When you get in games like that, players have to make big plays and he’s a kid who stepped up and made them.”
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called it “the shot of the game, because we had nothing going.”
It also came with fellow sophomores Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson on the bench with three fouls. Cowan also made a one-and-one when the Terps seemed to be teetering again.
“Man, was he good tonight,” Turgeon said of Cowan. “Twenty-five points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one turnover, guarded like crazy. He didn’t look tired to me. He was a one-man press offense out there when they pressed us. I think he’s really getting a feel for it, how to run the team. We had a stretch where Justin was in foul trouble. Kevin [was in foul trouble]. They weren’t making plays. He had to do it for us.”
Said Cowan, who led the team in scoring for the third straight game: “Coach always wants me to drive the ball a lot of times. But when there’s two seconds left, I’ve got to shoot it. It kind of takes a little more pressure off. I’m happy I made them tonight.”
Wiley was an X-factor: As a freshman, Dion Wiley was rewarded with his first start after a couple of strong performances off the bench, including a career-high 19 points against Virginia Military Institute.
Wiley struggled mightily, missing the only two shots he attempted and committing five turnovers against North Carolina Central in 16 minutes. Afterward, he told Turgeon he didn’t want to start anymore.
It turned out to be Wiley’s last start — until Wednesday.
While it wasn’t a surprise that Turgeon went to a three-guard lineup against the smaller Bulldogs, it was a bit of a shock that Wiley was inserted, given what happened three years ago.
This time, after missing the 2015-16 season with a torn meniscus and being in and out of the lineup last year with back problems, Wiley was healthy and ready for the moment.
He responded with 11 points in 30 minutes, hitting his first two 3-pointers in the opening half and his first of the second, which helped the Terps open up a 53-40 lead.
Turgeon had forgotten that Wiley had even started a game as a freshman.
“He’s the next guy up, we started a small lineup,” Turgeon said. “We haven’t started games very well, including our private scrimmage [against Wake Forest] and our exhibition [against Randolph-Macon]. Thank God we started well tonight, because Butler shot out of a cannon like the first three or four possessions. He was great. He looked like he belonged. He hasn’t looked that way since his freshman year.”
Fernando channels his inner Greivis: Part of the fun of watching Maryland’s freshman center Bruno Fernando is seeing how much fun he’s having.
After scoring on his third straight basket to spark a 12-0 run by the Terps midway through the first half, Fernando took a charge and ran down the court imploring the crowd to start getting more fired up than it had been.
It brought back memories of Greivis Vasquez when he was a freshman — even a senior — and the way he’d try to get the crowd to match his intensity and passion. All that Fernando was missing was what Vasquez used to call his “shimmy.”
Fernando finished with eight points on four of five shooting, all in the first half. They came off a dunk off a mini-lob from Huerter, a nice layup after passing up a lob dunk, a neat spin move in the lane that he finished with a short bank shot and a follow of his own miss.
“It just flows as the game goes, just try to do anything to help the team win,” Fernando said. “It’s just part of my energy, the way I play.”
Fernando has to cut down on his turnovers and learned how to position himself inside without fouling, but the 6-10 Angolan is probably the most athletic big man Maryland has had since Chris Wilcox.
It showed on several defensive plays, including when he went up to challenge Tyler Wideman as the Butler forward tried to dunk on semi-break. Fernando caught up and contested the dunk, which popped in and out of the basket and then went out of bounds.
“I think it meant a lot, it meant a lot for me, it meant a lot for the team,” Fernando said of the missed dunk, which would have cut Maryland’s lead to five with eight minutes left. “It was that type of play you can never give on. There’s either two chances — make or miss. Me going up there and trying to block the shot, and he actually missed and we get the ball back, it was just a hustle play.”
Turnovers and missed free throws still a killer: Maryland shot 57.4 percent on 27 of 47 from the field, including nine of 20 from 3-point range. Not only did the Terps get good shots, but they often resulted from better passes, including five of Maryland’s 14 assists from Huerter.
But Turgeon’s team finished with 20 turnovers and shot 16 of 23 (69.6 percent) from the free-throw line. That’s been a problem for the Terps whenever they fail to blow out teams when given the chance. That happened Wednesday.
After a big run pushed the Terps from an 18-15 deficit to a 32-20 lead, Maryland committed three straight turnovers, including two by the normally sure-handed Huerter, which allowed the Bulldogs to cut the lead back to six.
“That’s the one thing we’ve got to work on, we’re turning the ball over too much,” Turgeon said.
Only a couple of late 3s, the second each by Cowan and Wiley, allowed the Terps to stretch their lead back to nine before a tough runner by Butler guard Kamar Baldwin cut the deficit to 42-35 at halftime.
The same thing happened in the second half after Maryland stretched its lead to 13. A few turnovers and missed free throws prevented the Terps from putting the Bulldogs away until Cowan finally did.