COLLEGE PARK — The big crowd the Maryland men’s basketball team was hoping to attract Tuesday night against Northwestern for its first home game in more than two weeks was kept down by a little snow. No matter.
The “red-out” at Xfinity Center became a much-needed blowout for the No. 21 Terps.
Leading by 10 points early and 11 at halftime, Maryland built its lead to as many as 27 points in the second half and settled for a 70-52 win over the Wildcats to break its first two-game losing streak of the season.
The Terps were led again by sophomore center Bruno Fernando, who continued his legitimate candidacy to be named All-Big Ten with 22 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth straight double double and 13th of the season.
Freshman forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) added 14 points and nine rebounds.
Sophomore guard Anthony Gaines led Northwestern (12-9, 3-7 Big Ten) with 18 points and seven rebounds.
The victory helped give the Terps some momentum going into what could be their most grueling stretch of the season. Maryland (17-5, 8-3) will play four of its next five games on the road, starting Friday against No. 24 Wisconsin in Madison.
Strange night for Cowan: Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. started the game with a four-point play on Maryland’s first possession but didn’t start the second half after picking up his third personal foul, a flagrant, with 5.2 seconds left before halftime.
Cowan finished the half with eight points and four assists and finished the game with the same numbers in only 19 minutes, the second shortest stint of his career. He played 18 minutes in his freshman year against Howard.
Ayala gets his touch back: After averaging a shade over 11 points while shooting around 50 percent from the field over an eight-game stretch, freshman guard Eric Ayala Jr. injured his hip taking a hard fall in a 14-point win at Ohio State Jan. 14.
Since sitting out the last 12 minutes of that game — in which he scored six points and shot 2-for-3 from the field (including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers), Ayala scored just five points in losses at No. 6 Michigan State and to Illinois on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
Ayala, who was held scoreless and committed four turnovers in Saturday’s loss to the Fighting Illini, missed all four shots he took in the first half against Northwestern before hitting a tough driving layup in traffic to push Maryland’s lead to 43-26 in the second half.
Ayala finished the game with eight points, all in the second half.
Instant analysis: After building another quick double-digit lead, as they did in against Illinois before having it cut to four at halftime, the Terps pushed their lead to 11 at halftime Tuesday and stretched it to 27 in the second half. More importantly, the Terps played with poise without Cowan for most of the second half.