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Without injured Cekovsky, Maryland hangs tough with No. 3 Purdue before losing, 75-67

Even before Maryland started practice Tuesday in College Park in preparation for Wednesday night’s game at Mackey Arena, the notion of the struggling Terps upsetting the streaking Boilermakers on their home court seemed far-fetched.

The heel injury suffered by senior center Michal Cekovsky during that practice made the odds — if not the point spread, which strangely never wavered even with news of the 7-1 Slovakian staying home — appear insurmountable.

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After giving up the first nine points of the game to the nation’s No. 3 team and falling behind by as many as 15 in the first half, Mark Turgeon’s undersized and undermanned team kept things more competitive than expected in a 75-67 loss.

“Thankfully for us they missed a few jump shots they had been making at home, so we were able to hang around in the first half,” Turgeon said. “And in the second half I thought offensively we were as good as we’ve been in a long time.”

Trailing 35-24 at halftime, the Terps cut their deficit to six three times — with five straight points by freshman center Bruno Fernando to start the second half, to 40-34 on a 3-point shot by sophomore guard Anthony Cowan Jr., and to 55-49 on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Kevin Huerter.

Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon talks about the 75-67 loss to Purdue. (Don Markus, Baltimore Sun video)

When Huerter hit a second straight 3-pointer to cut the deficit to three points with a little over nine minutes left in the game, the noisy crowd got nervous and Purdue coach Matt Painter called timeout.

Maryland couldn’t get any closer.

After the timeout, Purdue went on a 7-0 run as Huerter missed two straight 3-pointers and Boilermakers center Isaac Haas sandwiched a pair of free throws and a dunk around a 3-pointer by senior guard P.J. Thompson.

“I thought we shot three quick ones in that stretch and we can’t do that here on the road against a team that is so good offensively,” said Turgeon, whose Terps finished 7-for-23 on 3-pointers compared with 7-for-22 for the Boilermakers. “But we also fell down on defense, Anthony [Cowan Jr.] was trying to help and Thompson hit one. But we had two wide open 3s in that stretch. We just didn’t make that.”

The defeat was the fifth straight Big Ten on the road and the fifth in six games overall for Maryland (15-9, 4-7), which has now lost more league games than in any of its previous three seasons since leaving the Atlantic Coast Conference. The victory was the 18th straight for Purdue (22-2, 11-0).

Fernando led Maryland with 20 points and 10 rebounds, his second double double, to lead Maryland.

Haas led the Boilermakers with 20 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Carsen Edwards finished with 17 points.

Good night for freshmen

After getting off to impressive starts to their college careers, both Fernando and fellow freshman Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph) struggled with consistency when Big Ten play began. Fernando had a tough time staying healthy; Morsell couldn’t hit shots.

Except for the foul trouble — he picked up his fourth with a little under 12 minutes left in the game — Fernando had one of his better performances since earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week in early January. He hit eight for 12 from the field, including two pull-up midrange jumpers.

Morsell, who has worked tirelessly trying to improve his shooting, had 13 points and nine rebounds on 6-for-10 from the field, and hit three straight baskets early in the second half. He even showed his courage by taking a charge from the 7-foot 290-pound Haas.

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“Even though we lost, I felt like I’ve grown up as an individual and a player today,” Morsell said. “In the first half I wasn’t really assertive. The defense was playing off me and I wasn’t taking advantage of it. The second half, the team told me they needed me to be more aggressive in order to have success.”

Asked what he thought when he saw Haas coming with a head of steam down the lane and whether he blinked, Morsell smiled.

“I didn’t blink, I just closed my eyes and let whatever happen happen.”

Extent of Cekovsky’s injury unknown

More than a day after he injured his left heel in practice in College Park, Maryland announced that Cekovsky did not make the trip to Purdue.

Turgeon said after the game that Cekovsky suffered the injury to the same leg he injured last season, when he broke his ankle against Wisconsin in mid-February and missed the last seven games, with the Terps losing five.

“He landed on it funny and he’s going to see his surgeon [Friday],” Turgeon said. “I think they did an MRI and an X-ray, I think they’re doing a CAT scan next. So we’ll know more tomorrow on him.”

Cekovsky’s injury was certainly the most serious, but it wasn't the only one the Terps were dealing with against Purdue. Cowan had his right hand wrapped tightly to protect what appeared to be his thumb, and redshirt junior guard Dion Wiley, who started his second straight game, rolled his ankle in the first half and sat out.

“We were down to six [healthy scholarship players] unless I’m going to play the walk-ons,” Turgeon said. “We are who we are. We keep battling. Guys have positive attitudes. There’s a lot of fight in us. I’m hoping some good things happen to these guys because they continue to play hard.”

Turgeon wouldn’t go into detail about Cowan's injury, which seemed to affect his shooting (3-for-9 overall, 1-for-5 on 3s). Cowan overcame a slow start to finish with 11 points and eight assists.

Asked the nature of Cowan’s injury, Turgeon said, “He’s a tough kid.”

MARYLAND (15-9): Fernando 8-12 4-5 20, Wiley 0-3 0-0 0, Cowan 3-9 4-4 11, Morsell 6-10 1-2 13, Huerter 5-12 2-2 16, Tomaic 0-0 0-0 0, Obi 0-0 0-0 0, Nickens 2-7 1-2 7. Totals 24-53 12-15 67.

PURDUE (22-2): V.Edwards 3-10 2-3 8, Haas 8-14 4-6 20, Thompson 1-6 2-2 5, Mathias 4-7 0-0 11, C.Edwards 4-9 7-8 17, Eifert 0-0 1-2 1, Haarms 4-5 0-0 8, Eastern 1-3 0-2 3, Cline 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 26-58 16-23 75.

Halftime—Purdue 35-24. 3-point goals—Maryland 7-23 (Huerter 4-10, Nickens 2-6, Cowan 1-5, Wiley 0-1, Fernando 0-1), Purdue 7-22 (Mathias 3-6, C.Edwards 2-4, Eastern 1-2, Thompson 1-5, Cline 0-2, V.Edwards 0-3). Fouled out—Haarms, Obi. Rebounds—Maryland 30 (Fernando 10), Purdue 31 (V.Edwards 11). Assists—Maryland 18 (Cowan 8), Purdue 16 (V.Edwards 5). Total fouls—Maryland 21, Purdue 16. A—14,804 (14,846).

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