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Darryl Morsell’s deep 3 in final seconds lifts No. 9 Maryland to wild comeback win over Minnesota, 74-73

On a night when the Maryland men’s basketball team’s top big man sat on the bench for much of the first half with foul trouble and its senior leader struggled to hit shots, junior guard Darryl Morsell delivered last-second heroics for the No. 9 Terps.

Minnesota’s Gabe Kalscheur missed the front end of a one-and-one and Morsell hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left to lift Maryland past Minnesota, 74-73, completing a 17-point comeback. The Terps’ 16-point deficit at halftime was their largest of the season.

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“When it left my hand, honestly I thought it was going to hit off the backboard and go in,” said Morsell, who recorded 13 points and nine rebounds. “It looked good. I knew one thing, I wasn’t going to miss short. I wanted it to hit off the backboard and give our guys a chance to get the ball. But that was just the grace of God.”

According to Maryland, it’s the Terps’ biggest comeback victory since being down 19 to No. 17 North Carolina State at halftime in an 85-82 win in a 2004 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal.

Per ESPN Stats & Information, Maryland has three comebacks from down at least 15 points this season, tied with Auburn and Nicholls for the most in Division I. They previously erased 14-point halftime deficits in wins over Illinois on Dec. 7 and Northwestern on Jan. 21, becoming the second Division I team in the past 20 years to come back to win from a halftime deficit of 14 points or more three times in the same season, joining 2018-19 Duquesne, per statistics website Stats Perform.

The late shot was as surprising as the player who hit it. It was just the 14th 3-pointer of the year for Morsell, a Mount Saint Joseph product. He’s shooting 35% on 40 attempts from deep this season after hitting just 18 of 62 (29%) from behind the line last season.

The victory puts Maryland (23-5, 13-4 Big Ten) in the driver’s seat to win its first Big Ten regular-season title since joining the league before the 2014-15 season. The Terps, who lead the Big Ten by two games, can earn at least a share of the league championship with a victory Saturday over No. 24 Michigan State in College Park.

As he has done so many times this season, coach Mark Turgeon reverted to a zone to jumpstart a comeback effort from his team. Maryland slowly cut into Minnesota’s lead mainly on the efforts of sophomore forward Jalen Smith, who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and added 12 rebounds.

Down two, Maryland fouled Kalscheur with 12 seconds left. As his shot clanked off the front of the rim, sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins grabbed the rebound and passed it to senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who faked a shot then passed back to Wiggins. Wiggins begin to drive before passing back to Morsell, who hit an NBA-length 3-pointer to give the Terps their first lead since the 18:14 mark of the first half.

After a nearly fullcourt inbounds pass, Daniel Oturu’s last-second shot came up short, giving the Terps’ their fourth comeback from 14 at halftime.

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“I think when we showed we can do that against Illinois earlier in the year, we showed that we can come back from anything,” Morsell said. “We know we’re a team that has a lot of ... spurtability. So we know if we get hot, we start making shots, we start guarding, we definitely have a lot of spurtability. So we’re always confident, just trying to stick with it. I’m just proud. I’m just proud.”

Similar to Maryland’s loss last Sunday to Ohio State, the Terps had to combat early foul trouble and a hot-shooting team. The Gophers made their first five shots and hit six of their first seven 3-pointers, building an 18-6 lead by the first media timeout.

An incensed Turgeon was assessed a technical foul for voicing his frustration after Smith was called for his second foul in the game’s first five minutes.

“We’ve got to get our emotions in check,” Turgeon said. “I wasn’t trying to get a ‘T.’ I deserved it, OK? But I wasn’t trying to get one. We’ve got to get our emotion in check. We’re having too many technicals. We’ve got to act with a lot more poise than we’re acting with right now.”

Smith sat for the majority of the first half and checked back in at the 4:15 mark, only to pick up his third foul 22 seconds later. With Smith on the bench for most of the first half, Turgeon turned to a rotation of big men in Donta Scott, Chol Marial, Joshua Tomaic and Ricky Lindo Jr. None had much success defending Oturu, who recorded 15 points and five rebounds in the first half.

Oturu finished with a game-high 28 points and 11 rebounds.

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Cowan was also assessed a technical foul in the first half for slapping the court after he hit the ground following a driving layup. It was the second technical in as many games for Cowan, who was assessed a tech and fifth personal foul in Sunday’s loss to Ohio State.

The shooting struggles continued for Cowan, who broke Keith Booth’s record with his 127th consecutive start Wednesday night but recorded 10 points on 2-for-15 shooting and missed all eight of his 3-point attempts.

Even with Cowan failing to make shots, Maryland’s supporting cast picked up the slack. Wiggins scored 16 points and Scott added 10, while the Terps emphasized post opportunities for Smith in the second half.

A putback dunk by Smith, who played the entire second half, off a missed 3-pointer by Cowan cut the Terps’ deficit to 73-71 with 14 seconds left, setting up the intentional foul and ensuing one-and-one opportunity.

“[Smith] was aggressive against a really good, long player in there,” Turgeon said. “He just decided he had enough with the way things were going the last two games and he competed. Defensive end, he was able to zone up a little bit more, get a little bit more rest, which helped him on the offensive end.”

Turgeon said his players were attempting to get a two-pointer and play for overtime, but Oturu cut off Cowan’s path to the lane on a drive. Cowan found Wiggins on the wing and he located the trailing Morsell, who rattled in the game-winner.

“Shot goes up, Darryl’s a warrior. Kid thinks he’s going to make every shot," Turegon said. "[He] missed about four layups and made the 3. [I’m] really happy for the team because that was a battle, not a lot of things went right.

No. 24 Michigan State@No. 9 Maryland

Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM

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