Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon on his team's win Saturday over Ohio State University. (Don Markus / Baltimore Sun)
COLLEGE PARK — Since nearly all the Maryland fans at Saturday’s game against Ohio State at Xfinity Center didn’t make the trip to Iowa earlier in the week, the Terps tried their best to recreate the second-half angst coach Mark Turgeon felt at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Unlike Tuesday, when the Terps lost all of their 12-point lead early in the second half in a win at No. 21 Iowa, No. 24 Maryland blew nearly all of the 14-point bulge it built on the Buckeyes. Instead of making their coach sweat until the last few seconds, Turgeon was able to celebrate sooner.
One similarity in Maryland’s 72-62 win over Ohio State was the play of its two top scorers, junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and sophomore center Bruno Fernando. Cowan did much of his work early, and Fernando did his damage in the second half.
Cowan scored all but two of his team-high 19 points as the Terps stretched their lead to 14 points, 50-36, with 12:12 remaining. His final points — on a pair of free throws with 32 seconds left — pushed him past Joe Smith on Maryland’s scoring list.
Fernando scored all 14 of his points in the second half. He added 10 rebounds, securing his ninth double double in 10 games and 18th of the season. Though he didn’t need to score the game-winner, as he did against the Hawkeyes, he made big plays nonetheless.
The victory was the fourth in five games for Maryland (21-7, 12-5 Big Ten). While it didn’t go down to the buzzer as happened in Tuesday’s 66-65 win at Iowa, things got jittery when Ohio State (17-10, 7-9) cut its deficit to two, 57-55, with 5:27 remaining.
“They started to make shots and we started to make mistakes on defense,” Turgeon said. “We played a little bit younger during that stretch. Whenever they cut it two, we were terrific after that. We really guarded. We did some things in the last three minutes that I was really proud of.”
After freshman guard Serrel Smith Jr. was fouled on a 3-point shot and converted all of his free throws — giving him a career-high 14 points — sophomore guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) made a steal, was fouled on a drive and made both free throws. Morsell scored 11 points, going 6-for-6 from the foul line.
But it was Fernando taking over on two straight possessions to help keep Ohio State — which played without senior point guard and second-leading scorer C.J. Jackson because of a shoulder injury — from making further noise and letting the announced crowd of 17,569 take a collective breath.
On the first, the 6-foot-10 Angolan grabbed the rebound of a miss by Morsell, and without hesitation found freshman wing Aaron Wiggins for a flying one-handed dunk. After a 3-pointer cut Maryland’s lead back to six, Fernando drove, spun and scored on a left-handed layup.
Asked about the two plays — the assist to Wiggins was one of four for Fernando, one shy of his career high — Turgeon said it was sign of maturity not only for his big man but also for his young team.
“We’ve worked really hard on what we do after an offensive rebound, so it was great to see Aaron cutting. Bruno made the play, which was terrific,” Turgeon said. “To be quite honest with you, it was probably one of our best possessions of the game.
“We had a lot of them, where we used the whole [30-second] clock and ran a play for Bruno and he shoots a little left-handed hook with the shot clock going off. That was a terrific possession. We played with a lot of poise there and executed at a high level."
That kind of versatility — he also hit a couple of face-up mid-range jumpers — shows where Fernando has grown from a raw talent into what Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said Saturday is a player worthy of being first-team All-Big Ten.
Perhaps because he is doing it with such regularity this season, Fernando sheepishly said he couldn’t remember his last basket.
“I remember the pass to Aaron, but the layup and the drive?” he said with a smile. “I’ve said it all the time, I’ve worked on expanding my game and just try to be more of a team player, facilitate the game for my team and making the right play at the right time. … It’s something we’ve got to keep doing as a team.”
Smith heats up
Playing 19 minutes off the bench, including 11 in the second half after fellow freshman Eric Ayala left in the first half feeling ill, Serrel Smith Jr. gave the Terps a big boost by making four of seven shots from the field and five of seven from the free-throw line.
“It was a missing spot there that had to be filled,” Smith said. “Coach came in [at halftime] and told us that Eric wasn’t feeling well. It was my time to step up and play that role.”
Smith had hit some big 3-pointers on the road recently, including one at Iowa and another to help fuel Maryland’s short-lived second-half comeback at Michigan. But he seemed to know that with Ayala out, the Terps needed more from him Saturday.
“Every second I’m on the court, I try to keep myself confident,” Smith said. “Keep myself up, try to step up. If the ball is rotating to me, I try to hit the shot. That’s really it.”
Cowan passes Joe Smith
Though he wasn’t born until after Joe Smith’s Maryland career ended following his sophomore year in 1994-95 as ACC Player of the Year and the No. 1 pick in the 1995 NBA draft, Cowan was well aware of the former Maryland star.
His father, Anthony Sr., was a big fan of Smith’s.
Told that he passed Smith on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,291 points, Cowan said, “Really? My dad’s going to be so happy.”
Now 28th on the scoring list, Cowan will set his sights on some other, less notable Terps. Jay McMillen, whose biggest claim to fame is giving Lefty Driesell the line about Maryland becoming “the UCLA of the East,” is at 1,300, and former Woodlawn standout Evers Burns is at 1,315.