The Maryland men’s basketball team came into Friday night’s game against Ohio State at Value City Arena leading the Big Ten in 3-point shooting and nearly at the bottom of the league in assists.
That changed in a big way — and a good way — for the nation’s No. 19 team.
The Terps continued their hot shooting, especially in the first half, and showed their ability to find open shooters as well. The combination carried Maryland to a 75-61 victory, its seventh straight.
Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. had another dominant second half, scoring 15 of his team-high 20 points. After a slow start himself, sophomore center Bruno Fernando finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, his 10th double double of the season.
After winning just its first and last Big Ten road games last season, Maryland (16-3, 7-1) has won three straight after a two-point loss at Purdue in early December. Once ranked as high as No. 13, Ohio State (12-5, 2-4) has lost four straight overall.
Maryland shot 25-for-43 from the field (58.1 percent), including 11-for-17 (64.7 percent) from 3-point range. Also the Big Ten’s leading free-throw shooters, the Terps were 14-for-16 from the foul line. Maryland had 14 assists, twice the number it had in Monday’s 64-60 win over Wisconsin at Xfinity Center, with nine coming in the first half.
Asked about his team’s recent stretch on the road, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said: “You can’t explain it. It just kind of happens. And right now we are comfortable on the road. It showed in the way we started the game and the way we played.
“The way we handled it when they made the run [early in the second half]. I was disappointed in the way we started the second half, three straight turnovers, gave them a couple of layups. ... It was like, ‘Guys, we built it once, let’s build it again. Let’s execute.’ ”
The confidence the Terps showed on the road in blowing out Rutgers in the first half and building a 27-point lead in the second half, as well as how they played in pulling away away from Minnesota three days later, was evident against the Buckeyes.
After Ohio State quickly cut its seven-point deficit to one early in the second half, sophomore guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) hit a 3-pointer out of a timeout. It was one of several times when the Terps scored out of a timeout.
“We were much better out of timeouts than we’ve been in awhile,” said Turgeon, who has been criticized throughout his eight-year tenure for his team’s inability to sometimes even get good shots following timeouts. “We just felt confident in the second half.”
Maryland will likely go up in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings Monday, the same day the Terps play at No. 6 Michigan State, where they lost last season by 30 points.
The six straight wins in the Big Ten are the most since Maryland won seven straight in 2016-17 for an 8-1 record in the league during a school best 20-2 start. Those Terps lost seven of their last last 11 games.
“We’re not even talking about it,“ Turgeon said. “I told our guys, ‘What you do, don’t look at our record, don’t listen to people saying, you’re this and that. This league’s too good. The league’s terrific.’ We’re just trying to get better.”
Asked if the streak reminded him a little bit of his freshman year two seasons ago, when Maryland won its first five conference road games, Cowan said: “Not yet. I think it’s a little bit too early, but we’re clicking a little bit. Still got a lot of ways to go.”
Cowan and Fernando get help
Though Maryland’s two top scorers continued to be the offense’s go-to players, the Terps had at least five players score in double figures for the seventh time this season, and only the second time in a Big Ten game.
Morsell and freshman Aaron Wiggins each finished with 11 points, while freshman forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) had 10. Turgeon said it was Morsell’s best game of the year “at both ends.”
Not only did Wiggins hit three of four 3-point attempts, including one right before the halftime buzzer to push Maryland’s lead to 45-38, the 6-foot-6 wing also had his first dunk in four games on a breakaway with a long pass from Cowan.
“I thought he shot the ball with confidence,” Cowan said. “Coach really told him that he has to hit shots for us. I think he did a really good job defensively as well. What I’m really happy is that he finally got a dunk.”
Said Wiggins: “Just being aggressive and attacking the rim aggressively. Getting that dunk was really excitement for the whole team. Everyone was really excited to see, telling me to just stay aggressive.”
Ayala leaves game
Freshman guard Eric Ayala Jr. left the game with a little under 13 minutes left, falling hard to the court after blocking a shot. It appeared Ayala landed on his left hip, but he limped off with some help from Fernando and spent some time on a stationary bike behind the bench before taking a seat.
His status for Monday’s game in East Lansing isn’t known, but as he walked past reporters after the game on his way to the team bus, Ayala said with a smile, ”I’ll be fine, guys.”
No longer a house of horrors
Even going back to before the Terps joined the Big Ten, Ohio State’s homecourt has been a very tough place for Maryland to play. While Friday’s win evened the record at 3-3, Turgeon said he was a “nervous wreck” all day because of the recent past.
Starting with a 76-60 loss to then-No. 5 Buckeyes in 2013-14 in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, the Terps had lost three times by an an average of nearly 21 points a game, including 91-69 last season. The two wins were by five and six points, respectively.
“We haven’t played particularly well in this building. This is the best we played,” Turgeon said. “I don’t take this win lightly. This is a heck of a win for our program. Guys did a great job preparing and we played well. … It was just a really good win for our young team.”