Maryland junior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. is not a great 3-point shooter — except when the 3-point shot clock is winding down and the game is on the line.
A 3-pointer by Cowan with just three seconds left on the shot clock and 33.9 seconds left in Saturday’s Big Ten opener helped No. 24 Maryland survive Penn State, 66-59.
The shot by Cowan, who finished with 15 points, came as the Terps were holding onto a 61-59 lead after being up by five, 58-53, with less than three minutes to go.
Freshman Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) led Maryland (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) with 16 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore center Bruno Fernando finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth double double of the season.
Junior forward Lamar Stevens led Penn State (4-3, 0-1) with 19 points and eight rebounds, while senior guard Josh Reaves finished with 17, all in the first half.
After hitting six of its first eight shots and taking a quick 12-3 lead, Maryland went cold. The Terps managed just two field goals in the last 13:19 of the first half, and fell behind by as many as eight, 29-21, before closing the deficit to one, 31-30, at halftime.
While missing 11 of its last 13 shots of the opening half, Maryland also hit 13 of 17 from the free-throw line, including an 8-for-8 showing by Fernando, who scored all his points on free throws in the half. Reaves kept Penn State in the game early.
The Terps started the second half on a 9-2 run and led by as many as eight, 47-39, after scoring twice inside on big-to-big passes between Fernando and Smith, who seemed to be playing with more energy and assertiveness than in recent games.
But Smith picked up his third personal foul with 12:32 left and the Nittany Lions went on a 9-0 run to take the lead. Sophomore guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) then missed a pair of free throws that would have given the Terps the lead.
Morsell redeemed himself later, hitting a slashing drive for a 56-53 lead and then finding Smith, his former high school teammate, for a lob dunk and a five-point lead. But the Terps allowed the Nittany Lions to hang around despite not scoring for a little over four minutes.
After a timeout by Penn State coach Patrick Chambers, Stevens scored in the lane to cut the deficit to 58-55, but Cowan hit a pull-up 3-pointer that was answered with a long 2-pointer by freshman guard Myles Dread.
A turnover by Cowan led to another freshman guard, Rashir Bolton, getting fouled on a drive and then cutting the Maryland lead back to two, 61-59, with a little over a minute left. With 33.9 seconds left in the game, Cowan’s 3-pointer finally gave the Terps some breathing room.
INSTANT ANALYSIS: Penn State could have been put away early, after starting the game hitting just one of its first 12 shots. But Maryland’s stagnant offense kept the Nittany Lions in the game. The Terps also had a chance to put Penn State away before the final minute, but again some lapses in judgment led to a closer finish than it should have been. The Terps need to figure out some things before Thursday at No. 19 Purdue, as they play their first road game since beating Navy in the Veterans Classic.