Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon talks about his team's Sunday night victory over Iowa at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Md. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun video)
COLLEGE PARK — Maryland point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. went into halftime Sunday night with four points and without a field goal, seemingly a little worn out from a season-long role as the team’s iron man and the Big Ten’s leader in percentage of minutes played.
While the Terps had taken a four-point lead at halftime over struggling Iowa after falling behind 10 early, the team seemed as sluggish as the normally dynamic 6-foot sophomore. Maryland then fell behind the Hawkeyes early in the second half, and Cowan still seemed flat.
Even with the late first-half ejection of Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, it took awhile for the Terps and their emerging star to wake up. When they did, the Terps put their struggles to start both halves behind them to run away with a 91-73 victory.
While freshman center Bruno Fernando led Maryland (14-4, 3-2) with a career-high 21 points — including a flying one-handed dunk while he was getting fouled late in the game — it was Cowan who helped turn the game around.
Iowa (9-9, 0-5) was led by junior guard Isaiah Moss with a career-high 25 points.
Cowan finished with 15 points and seven assists, including the lob to Fernando, while not committing a turnover in 37 minutes. Sophomore guard Kevin Huerter overcame a slow start to score 12, along with six rebounds and six assists.
“I just said to my staff, ‘Our two best players got to start playing better,’ and I thought they both had great second halves,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said of Cowan and Huerter, who combined for 20 of the team’s 43 second-half points. “We kind of fed off them.”
Asked what he told himself at halftime, Cowan said: “I told myself I’ve got to pick it up. I don’t know where I was at halftime, scoring, I just wasn’t being aggressive. I felt like I was letting my team down a little bit. So I had to make sure I picked up a little bit, and I think I did that a little bit in the second half.”
Three other players were also in double figures: Freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) scored 14 to go along with eight rebounds, and senior center Michal Cekovsky finished with 13 and redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley had 10. Cekovsky and Wiley scored all their points in the first half.
The victory helped the Terps forget their 30-point defeat Thursday night at No. 1 Michigan State.
“It was real important for us,” Fernando said. “We’ve been working real hard. It was a tough loss, but we were able to bounce back tonight. It feels good, you know, to get back on the winning track, so we’re just going to try to keep going.”
Maryland has three days off before traveling to Ohio State, which beat the Spartans, 80-64, on Sunday in Columbus.
Wiley’s big boost in first half, then quick exit in second
Redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley, who lost his starting role to Morsell after missing two games last month with a sprained ankle and an illness, had struggled with his shot in three games going into Sunday since his return.
After hitting just three of 11 shots in that span, including three of nine on 3-pointers, Wiley came off the bench early with the Terps down 17-7. He immediately scored on a backdoor layup and later popped in two straight 3-pointers during an 18-7 run that gave Maryland the lead.
“I saw it yesterday in practice,” Turgeon said. “He had a really good practice, he got after it. I had a feeling he was going to play well tonight.”
Having scored 10 points in the half to help the Terps take a 48-44 lead into their locker room at halftime, Wiley came in early in the second half when Morsell picked up his third personal. But 11 seconds after entering, Wiley came out after getting poked in the eye on a rebound scrum. He did not return.
“I feel so bad for him,” Turgeon said of Wiley, who missed his sophomore year with a torn meniscus, sat out long stretches last year with back problems and missed time this year both before and during the season. “It’s so disappointing to see him get poked. … We need Dion and that’s pretty obvious. I thought his minutes were great.”
McCaffery thought Bohannon was fouled by Cowan on a near-steal, forcing the turnover. Cowan was awarded four free throws, and made three, but the Terps couldn’t take advantage of the extra possession when Cekovsky missed two free throws on the ensuing possession.
“You know, I think what you have to do in situations like this, you have to take responsibility,” McCaffery said. “I didn’t want to get tossed and I don’t think you ever want to put your team in that position where they give them four free throws. But at the end of the day, we’re fighting. I’m fighting. I’m going to fight for my guys, so that’s what I did.”
It was believed to be the first time McCaffery had been ejected since he was tossed almost four years to the day in a 75-71 road loss for the then-No. 22 Hawkeyes at then-No. 4 Wisconsin, which stayed unbeaten by winning its 15th straight.
A year ago, Maryland honored the 2001-02 national championship team at its home game against Iowa. Not only did the Terps lose to the Hawkeyes by 14 points, but they were also booed off the court for their lackluster performance.
On Sunday, also against Iowa, the Terps honored five surviving members of the 1957-58 team, the first in school history to win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and advance to the NCAA tournament.
It appeared for the first few minutes that the same fate would befall Maryland as last year. But after falling behind by 10 points early, the Terps had taken the lead, 35-34, by the time the five players — all in their late 70s and early 80s — were introduced.