Maryland freshman guard Eric Ayala talks about the play of the team’s freshmen in Tuesday’s 70-56 win over No. 12 Purdue. (Baltimore Sun video by Don Markus)
COLLEGE PARK — Maryland won its first two games against Purdue as a member of the Big Ten, but it seemed like ancient history, with the Boilermakers winning five straight before Tuesday night’s matchup at Xfinity Center.
Trailing the No. 12 Boilermakers after a slow start, the No. 24 Terps seemed to headed for a sixth straight head-to-head defeat when they fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first half.
Led by its freshmen, Maryland went from playing catchup to putaway for its biggest win of the season, 70-56 over Purdue after outscoring the visitors 40-18 in the second half. The Terps closed the game on a 20-6 run.
Forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, while Eric Ayala finished with 15 points and Aaron Wiggins added 11 off the bench.
Junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. broke out of his recent slump with 12 points, six assists and four rebounds. Sophomore Bruno Fernando put together his seventh straight double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Junior guard Carsen Edwards led Purdue (17-7, 10-3 Big Ten) with 24 points, but scored just seven points in the second half and hit just two of 13 shots after halftime, finishing 8-for-27 for the game.
The defeat broke an eight-game winning streak for the Boilermakers.
What seemingly had the makings of a deflating defeat for Maryland (19-6, 10-4) turned into an exhilarating and important victory for the Terps, who stayed in the hunt for one of the top four spots in the Big Ten tournament.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after his young team lost, 62-60, at Purdue on Dec. 6 that he was looking forward to having his freshmen grow up by the time the teams met again. That proved to be the case as Smith, Ayala and Wiggins combined for 21 straight Terps points in one stretch to fuel Maryland’s second-half comeback.