COLLEGE PARK — Anthony Cowan Jr. was a senior at St. John’s College High in Washington three years ago when then-Maryland sophomore Melo Trimble hit a game-winning, desperation 3-pointer for Maryland that beat Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Cowan was in the basement of his family’s home in Bowie, watching the game on television with his father.
“I was like, ‘knockdown’ soon as it left his hand,” Cowan recalled Monday night.
Cowan wasn’t thinking about Trimble’s game-winner when he hit his 3 with 44 seconds left and the Terps down one after leading the Badgers by as many as 21 points early in the second half at Xfinity Center.
Still, he had a similar feeling when he let his shot fly. Cowan’s 3, coming with the 30-second clock and seemingly the Terps about to expire, helped Maryland survive, 64-60, before an announced crowd of 12,894.
The victory, coming hours after No. 19 Maryland (15-3, 6-1 Big Ten) jumped back into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in over a month, was the sixth straight for the Terps. Cowan finished with a team-high 21 points, including 19 in the second half.
Asked if had the same confidence in himself making that kind of shot as he had in Trimble, Cowan said, “Yeah, for sure. My coaches had confidence in me, my teammates did as well. I was confident in myself to be able to make the shot.”
What was going through Cowan’s mind as the ball wound up in his hands, with the Terps down 60-59 after Wisconsin sophomore guard Brad Davison gave the Badgers the lead with his team’s 11th 3-pointer (in 22 attempts) of the second half?
“It wasn’t like it was my first time with the ball and six seconds [left on the shot clock],” Cowan said with a wry smile. “Just make a play. I knew we were down one, saw the defender sag off a little bit, so I just pulled up.”
Asked if he has ever had a player as confident as Cowan seems to be late in the shot clock, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said: “Do you remember Melo Trimble? It’s been two local kids who have done it for us. Melo used to make impossible shots.”
Unlike the sequence that followed Trimble’s 3 during the 2015-16 season, which came from nearly the same spot with five seconds to play to break a tie at 60, Wisconsin (11-6, 3-3) had two good chances to at least send the game into overtime.
Sophomore forward Nate Reuvers, who went 4-for-8 on 3-pointers and scored all of his team-high 18 points in the second half, missed twice from beyond the arc. The second miss, with Maryland up 63-60 after a free throw by sophomore guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph), spun out with three seconds left.
With sophomore center Bruno Fernando (10 points) in foul trouble, Cowan was Maryland’s offense down the stretch. He scored the team’s only three baskets in the last 13:12, and 18 of their last 26 points. The Terps went over 10 minutes without a basket during Wisconsin’s comeback.
It didn’t seem to faze Cowan.
“He’s just confident,” Morsell said. “That’s all. That’s 100 percent of Anthony’s game. He’s the most confident player on the court at all times. Whenever the ball is in his hands at the end of a shot clock, the whole team believes in him so that just gives him the extra confidence to make the shot."
Maryland used the three-headed monster of Fernando, as well as freshman forwards Jalen Smith (11 points, seven rebounds) and Ricky Lindo Jr., to slow down Wisconsin senior forward All-American Ethan Happ, who tied his season-low with only 10 points.
Of the three Terps who guarded Happ, Lindo might have done the best job, especially in the way he helped defend ball screens on the perimeter. Though Lindo didn't score, he pulled down a team-high nine rebounds and picked up a key offensive foul against Happ.
Asked if he was surprised that Happ was called on the foul — he would quickly pick up his fourth and spent much of Wisconsin’s comeback on the bench — Lindo said, “No, I moved my feet and I knew where he was going and I just took a charge.”
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard was asked if the three Maryland big men used to contain Happ, who was coming off a season-high 31-point performance in an overtime loss to Purdue, was the best trio Maryland has had in the past four years.
Gard thought the reporter had asked if they were the best combination of big men the Terps have had on the same team. After Gard said that the duo of Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox were “pretty good” on Maryland's national championship team, the question was clarified.
“I’ll look at the tape and see how he completely he got defended on each possession,” Gard said. “I’ll have a better look then, but they did some good things. Like I said, Fernando is a load. He’s improved a lot and Smith has been a good addition.”
It’s taken awhile, but Turgeon is starting to acknowledge some of the questions Maryland fans have had about his in-game coaching. While he was happy for his young team to win a game that looked like it was about to lose, Turgeon took a shot at his critics.
“It’s a good thing to close games so people won’t talk about me,” Turgeon said with a touch of sarcasm. “I know how it is, but we’ve won some close games.”
Turgeon might also have been second-guessed had Reuvers hit the second 3-point attempt, which came after Wisconsin had called timeout with a little over 11 seconds left in the game and a little over nine seconds left on the 30-second clock.
When a couple of players forgot to switch after a ball screen, Reuvers got a wide-open look at a 3-pointer that would have tied the game. Turgeon was asked if there was consideration in fouling Happ, a notoriously poor free-throw shooter.
“No there wasn’t,” Turgeon said. “There was consideration if he was in the lane and he was going up for a shot to foul him … and make him earn it at the line. … We did talk about it but in the end we were just going to switch ball screens and take our chances.”