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Anthony Cowan Jr. is No. 7 Maryland’s leader, and calming presence: 'Sometimes you wonder if he has a heartbeat’

Anthony Cowan Jr. sat slouched in his seat with a perturbed expression. The Maryland men’s basketball team had just escaped with a 72-70 win at home against Nebraska, which sits second-to-last in the Big Ten with two conference wins, after nearly blowing a 14-point lead in the second half.

Cowan had missed the front end of a one-and-one that gave the Cornhuskers one last opportunity to pull off the upset last Tuesday before sophomore forward Jalen Smith’s last-second block sealed the Terps’ seventh straight win.

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“Still a lot more work to do, for sure,” said Cowan, who personally chided his defensive efforts, when reminded that his team still sat atop the Big Ten.

Cowan responded to his own internal challenge Saturday night at Michigan State, scoring the game’s final 11 points as the Terps rallied from a seven-point deficit with three minutes remaining, ending the game on a 14-0 run to win, 67-60.

His three consecutive 3-pointers during the stretch willed Maryland to its first win against the Spartans since the 2016-17 season and the team’s first victory in East Lansing since the 2014-15 season.

“We’ve got some tough guys, starting with Anthony Cowan,” coach Mark Turgeon said after the game. “He’s as tough as they come, pound for pound.”

Standing outside the team’s locker room after the game, Cowan didn’t show the unsettled look that he displayed days before, but spoke with the same apathetic tone.

“We still ain’t win anything,” Cowan said. “I still don’t have a ring. My teammates still don’t have a ring. It’s a good road win though, huge road win.”

It’s the perfect message for a player who has his sights set on capping a four-year career by hanging a banner in the rafters of the Xfinity Center.

As his final season nears its end, Cowan’s name continues to be written in Maryland’s record books. On Saturday, he passed Keith Booth for ninth on the school’s all-time scoring list. When No. 7 Maryland hosts Northwestern on Tuesday night, Cowan needs 18 points to pass Tom McMillen for eighth.

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Cowan has already left his mark in Maryland basketball history and has performed this season like one the best players in college basketball. But in the most recent watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the nation’s top point guard, Cowan’s name was missing.

After outplaying Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston, who was included on the list, Cowan retweeted a post that omitted his name.

It was a subtle but telling statement from the even-keeled Cowan, and the sort of “moxie” that drew Turgeon to Cowan when he starred at St. John’s College High School in Washington.

Cowan acknowledged it “raises your eyes” when looking at such lists, but quickly redirected the focus to leading the Terps as the team’s sole senior in the rotation.

“Each year of my college career has been different,” Cowan said Monday. “So I think I’ve been able to gain a lot of knowledge. One thing that I’ve learned is you definitely can’t get too high or too low, especially in this league, a league where everybody is good and everybody can win on any night. That’s what I try to tell my teammates.”

There was his freshman season in 2015-16, when he was an instant starter but had not yet developed into a leader playing next to Melo Trimble. That year’s team earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament, but was ousted in the first round by 11th-seeded Xavier.

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There was 2017-18, a once-promising season that ended with an injury-riddled and disappointing finish as Maryland missed out on the tournament.

And then there was 2018-19, and the team’s heartbreaking loss to LSU in the Round of 32 on a last-second layup.

So while Maryland’s eight-game winning streak, its longest in conference play since joining the Big Ten in 2014, is impressive, Cowan knows it ultimately doesn’t mean much with the conference tournament and NCAA tournament quickly approaching.

“Sometimes you wonder if he has a heartbeat,” Turgeon said. “He’s just so calm out there, and calm all the time. I think Anthony has the most to do with it, of anybody. He just wants to win. He’ll do whatever it takes to win.

“I think you’ve got to give Anthony a lot of credit. His leadership’s been really good. He’s seen it. He’s been through all of it.”

Northwestern@No. 7 Maryland

Tuesday, 8 p.m.

TV: BTN

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

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