Three takeaways from No. 23 Maryland's 62-60 loss at Purdue

Losing on the road in the Big Ten, especially in a tough environment such as Purdue’s Mackey Center, is not an unusual occurrence.

Unfortunately for Maryland, it’s something the Terps have done three straight times since winning here in 2014-2015 as a Big Ten newbie.

The latest defeat came Thursday night, when No. 23 Maryland built an early eight-point lead, led by four at halftime and saw a 7-0 run by the Boilermakers turn into a 62-60 loss.

Here are three takeaways from Maryland’s Big Ten road opener:

1. Last-second plays are not a thing of beauty for the Terps.

Maryland was fortunate to be in the position it was in, with three seconds remaining and a chance to either force overtime or win on a 3-point shot near or at the buzzer.

After a combination of some solid defense by the Terps and sloppy execution by the Boilermakers gave Maryland its chance, Anthony Cowan Jr. had a tough 3-point shot blocked.

According to Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, it was the third of three options on the inbounds play that started underneath his team’s basket.

That it was blocked by 6-foot-6-inch Nojel Eastern, who had been guarding Cowan for much of what was a 4 for 17 shooting night, probably is evidence of it being option No. 3.

As clutch as the junior guard can be making 3-pointers, shooting over a player a half-foot taller is probably not a great idea, especially from the corner.

Not getting the ball on the rim is bad, but it’s something Maryland fans unfortunately saw at last year’s Big Ten tournament with a botched inbounds pass in a first-round loss to Wisconsin.

The play Maryland ran Thursday was similar to last year’s Big Ten road opener at Illinois, when Kevin Huerter’s 3-point shot bounced off and Bruno Fernando tipped it in to force overtime.

In that case, Cowan’s overtime heroics led to a road win.

Assuming that option No. 1 or No. 2 was to get the ball inside to Fernando, you have to assume that the 6-foot-10-inch sophomore center was bottled up much as he was for most of the game, especially in the second half.

Last year, Maryland was lucky to win in Champaign.

On Thursday, the Terps just didn’t execute very well.

2. Turgeon is working to get his freshmen experience and create some frontcourt depth, but sometimes his substitutions with them are perplexing.

With five freshmen in the rotation, Turgeon has stated all season that he wanted to build depth and was confident that he had the talent to do it.

On Thursday, things started well as Turgeon was able to get eight players in the game within the first 10 minutes and most seemed to be making contributions to the early lead.

Wing Aaron Wiggins, who has established himself as a solid sixth man, hit a 3-pointer to put Maryland up 15-8. Forward Ricky Lindo Jr. hit his first career 3-pointer to make it 18-0.

The only one of the freshmen reserves to struggle — at least offensively — was guard Serrel Smith, who missed a couple of shots and made a couple of unforced turnovers.

Turgeon seemed to be waiting for Smith to do something positive, but aside from an assist, his 10-minute stint saw the Boilermakers take advantage of his inexperience.

With a lineup that included Smith and little-used redshirt sophomore center Joshua Tomaic as his only big man, the Terps got a pair of Cowan free throws in the last minute.

A 3-pointer by Purdue redshirt freshman Aaron Wiggins close to the halftime buzzer cut the deficit back to four.

The last-minute substitution of having both Jalen Smith and Fernando on the bench with only one foul each was reminiscent of what happened in the Virginia game.

In that case, Turgeon put in little-used redshirt senior forward Ivan Bender and four freshmen in a game the Terps trailed the No. 4 Cavaliers by one. They were outscored 4-0 in a game Maryland lost by five.

3. Cowan can’t do it by himself — and shouldn’t try.

There were times Thursday night when Cowan tried to do too much, reminiscent of several games last season when he didn’t trust his teammates or get them involved as much as he should.

While this season is much different in the fact that Cowan doesn’t have a player like Huerter to share the role as the go-to guy, his mindset is much like it was a year ago.

Much of that has to do with Maryland’s youth, but the difference this season is that Cowan has better options with Fernando and Jalen Smith inside than he did a year ago.

Turgeon said after the game that part of Maryland’s problem was the younger players deferring to Cowan too much, as Cowan and Huerter did as freshmen when Melo Trimble was the star.

For Maryland to have any chance of becoming an NCAA tournament team, Cowan has to become more of a leader and, at times, a facilitator.

While his assist-to-turnover ratio was good with six turnovers and three turnovers — and much better than it was in the Penn State game — he needs to improve on his decision-making.

don.markus@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sportsprof56

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
34°