Hot start, cold finish leaves No. 23 Maryland with 62-60 loss to Purdue for first Big Ten defeat

Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon expected his young team to have some growing pains, especially early in the Big Ten season.

On a night when the Terps did enough defensively to beat Purdue at raucous Mackey Arena, a stagnant offense let a hot start turn into a disappointing finish.

Maryland wound up losing, 62-60, when junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr.’s 3-point shot was blocked in the waning seconds by Nojel Eastern, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound sophomore.

The defeat for the Terps in their Big Ten road opener was the fifth straight to the Boilermakers, since winning the teams’ first two meetings over Purdue after Maryland joined the Big Ten.

Cowan led Maryland (7-2, 1-1 Big Ten) with 18 points, but missed 13 of 17 shots from the field, including at least two as the 30-second shot was about to expire.

“The last seven minutes, we played like a young team,” said Turgeon, whose team led by as many as eight before a 7-0 run late in the game helped Purdue (6-3, 1-1) take control to break a two-game losing streak. “We didn’t play with poise, we didn’t coach with poise.

“I can handle not scoring, but I’d like to get a little better looks than we were getting. We’re not going to be a great team if we’re just setting ball screens for Anthony late in the game to score. It’s not good. Give them credit. They took us out of everything.”

Maryland defended well against junior guard Carsen Edwards, the Big Ten’s leading scorer. Not only did the Terps hold Edwards scoreless for the first 12½ minutes as Maryland built its early eight-point lead, but he finished with 20 points on 4-for-15 shooting.

The Boilermakers got more of a contribution, particularly in the second half, from role players Grady Eifert, Aaron Wheeler and Matt Haarms, who combined to hit six of eight from 3-point range overall to balance a 3-for-9 long-range showing from Edwards.

“When they’re making six [3-pointers], you think they’re going to get to 90,” said Turgeon, whose Terps shot 9-for-27 on 3-pointers, including just 2-for-10 by Cowan. “To me, that was the difference.”

Maryland shot 20-for-57 overall while also committing 17 turnovers. Turgeon was asked if the offense wasn’t moving, if Cowan was dribbling too much or if Purdue’s defense was just that good.

“All of the above,” he said. “We’re dribbling too much. They took away our first options. Maybe the young guys are deferring too much to Anthony.”

Option 3 on the last play

After a combination of Maryland’s defense and Purdue’s own inexperience prevented the Boilermakers from securing an easier victory, the Terps had a chance to force overtime or win with a 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

After a timeout with three seconds to play, Cowan got the ball in the corner and tried to shoot over Eastern, who had a 6-inch height advantage. The ball went nearly straight up in the air as the final horn sounded.

Asked about what the Terps were looking for on that last shot, Turgeon said he gave his team three options.

“We ended up with the third option,” Turgeon said. “It felt like they had six guys out there. They were great [defensively]. We didn’t have anything. We talked about Anthony making a quick pass if he caught it on the roll. I don’t know if it was there or not.”

Turgeon said he hasn’t installed all his inbounds plays from under the opposing team’s basket, in part because most of his team’s early-season opponents played zone, not the man-to-man defense the Boilermakers used.

“We have a young team that I’ve kind of overloaded,” Turgeon said. “I don't think we had enough in there to sneak a shot in there on them.”

Said Cowan: “We knew what they were going to try to do [defensively] and we just tried to counter. Give credit to Purdue; they just played it good.

Bottling up Terps bigs

After combining for 28 points in Maryland’s Big Ten-opening win over Penn State on Saturday, big men Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph) combined for just 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting.

Fernando finished with nine points and 13 rebounds, while Smith had seven points and nine rebounds.

Though they helped get the Terps off to a quick start — especially Smith, who hit an of early outside shot — Turgeon eventually had to alternate.

“We’re trying to figure out how to play the big guys together and be efficient offensively,” Turgeon said.

What was a little hard to explain was when Turgeon took both of his big men out at the end of the first half — putting in little-used sophomore Josh Tomaic as his center — and Purdue cut its seven-point deficit to four, 34-30, on a 3-pointer by Wheeler right before the halftime buzzer.

Depth perception

It looked early on like Maryland’s freshmen were going to show some maturity in their first road game, as Smith, wing Aaron Wiggins and even forward Ricky Lindo Jr. hit 3-pointers to help the Terps build the early 18-10 lead.

But the depth that Turgeon so desperately wants to build disappeared, as freshman guard Serrel Smith Jr., who the Terps were hoping would be a scorer off the bench, went scoreless and committed two turnovers in 10 minutes.

Jalen Smith shot 3-for-8 from the field, while Wiggins (nine points on 3-for-9 shooting, 3-for-7 on 3-pointers) also cooled off.

Asked if it’s difficult to build depth with a young team on the road in the Big Ten, Cowan said, “These guys can contribute. It’s a young season, second conference game, still a long conference season. I’ve still got a lot of faith in them.”

don.markus@baltsun.com

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