In Maryland’s only game against Indiana last season, Bruno Fernando left early with a sprained ankle and Anthony Cowan Jr. self-destructed late in trying to win by himself. The Terps watched a late five-point lead turn into a disappointing three-point loss in Bloomington, Ind., as a result.
In the Terps’ only regular-season game against the Hoosiers this year, Friday night at Xfinity Center, Fernando and Cowan watched the Hoosiers score the first nine points and take a 28-14 lead midway through the first half.
Thankfully for the Terps, Fernando’s ankles held up and Cowan’s game got better as the game went. Trailing by eight at halftime and by 10 after Indiana’s first possession of the second half, Maryland rode their two top scorers to a 78-75 victory.
Fernando finished with a career-high 25 points, missing just one of the 12 shots he attempted and banking in his only 3-point attempt, while also pulling down 13 rebounds. Cowan scored 24 points, hitting six straight free throws in the final minute to keep Indiana at bay.
The result was the fifth straight win for Maryland (14-3, 5-1 Big Ten) and the second in 10 days over a Top 25 team, after a stretch of 11 straight losses to ranked teams over the past three seasons.
Fernando scored 17 points in the second half and Cowan had 16. Freshman guard Romeo Langford led Indiana (12-4, 3-2) with 28 points — with 20 coming in the second half — to help the Hoosiers cut into what became a 10-point lead for the Terps.
“They both improved so much [from last year],” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’ve got really good players. We have a lot of confidence in Anthony and we need him to do great things. We also have a ton of confidence in Bruno.
“I loved the poise we played with. Anthony or Bruno had the ball in their hands almost every possession late in the game. That’s just guys growing up, understanding, younger guys understanding how we need to play and that takes a while to get going.”
Turgeon called it “one of the best wins” of his career.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “It was an incredible win, because we weren't very good at the start.”
Cowan said the difference between last year’s performance at Assembly Hall — when his ill-advised 28-foot miss sealed Maryland’s fate in a game Juwan Morgan took over at the end — was on display Friday.
“That’s what coaches have been getting on me for, just getting better,” said Cowan, who also had seven assists and five rebounds. “He always says, he don’t know if my numbers are going to go up but he definitely saw my growth just as an overall basketball player.”
Turgeon credited the crowd announced at 15,017 — as well as his two top scorers — with fueling Maryland’s comeback.
“I think we fed off our fans in the second half. I thought our crowd was incredible, with the students being gone,” Turgeon said. “It gave us a lot of energy. We started to play with a lot more energy the last seven minutes of the first half and the second half we were really good again.
“Anthony had his spurts when he was really good. Bruno had his spurts when he was really good. … I think Indiana guarded as well as anybody’s guarded [Maryland], and eventually we could break down a little bit and keep playing through Bruno and Anthony.”
Tough night for ‘Stix’
Coming off a career-high 21-point performance in Tuesday’s comeback win at Minnesota, freshman forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) missed all nine shots he tried from the field, including a breakaway dunk.
Smith finished with two points, both free throws, and despite grabbing 10 rebounds, Turgeon said the 6-foot-10 forward also struggled on defense. Smith seemed to have trouble even catching the ball at times, and was visibly frustrated.
Still, the Terps overcame one of Smith’s worst games for their best win of the season.
“Yeah, that’s huge,” Turgeon said. “It should take the pressure off of him and he just needs to relax. Obviously I’ve seen Stix play a lot of games, but it was just one of those games. He was tripping over his feet, fumbling balls.
“I felt bad for him before he’s such a terrific player coming off his best game of the year. It’s humbling for him, but I love the kid and I know he’s going to bounce back and play great Monday night [against Wisconsin at home]. He might have 20.”
Bruno’s bank is open
Fernando hasn’t shot many 3-pointers over his career, but he is now a 37.5 percent shooter, the result of a banked 3-pointer from straightaway during Maryland’s second-half run. Fernando didn’t call “bank” or even “Kobe” as he did shooting 3s in practice Friday. He has made two of five from long range this season and three of eight in his career.