Like the old Brooklyn Dodgers, whose mantra was born out of their decades-long futility against the powerhouse New York Yankees, the Maryland men’s basketball team and coach Mark Turgeon no longer will have to wait until next year to try to topple a ranked opponent on the road.
The frustration of the No. 24 Terps and Turgeon in failing to accomplish this seemingly routine yet inexplicably monstrous feat — Maryland’s went more than 11 years between road wins over a ranked team and Turgeon went more than 12 — ended Tuesday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a 66-65 win over No. 21 Iowa.
After seeing his team’s 12-point lead with a little under 14 minutes left in the game erased, sophomore center Bruno Fernando’s tip-in with 7.6 seconds remaining, coming off a missed runner in the lane by junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., gave Maryland (20-7, 11-5 Big Ten) the one-point lead.
“I was just trying to get a rebound,” said Fernando, who finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth double double in the past nine games. “I was confident that Ant was going to make the layup. I just went to the boards and tipped the ball in.”
Following a timeout, Iowa (20-6, 9-6) got two shots, a forced 3-pointer by junior guard Jordan Bohannon with Cowan tightly guarding him, and a follow by redshirt junior forward Isaiah Moss.
But the follow ricocheted off the back rim, going harmlessly in the air as the Maryland bench erupted in celebration and Turgeon stopped momentarily to take it all in.
“We made a lot of plays,” Turgeon said after the game. “The crowd got into it. We hit a lot of big shots. 3s by Eric [Ayala], Cowan, [Aaron] Wiggins. Bruno’s tip, Bruno’s free throws. We made a lot of big plays. You have to, to beat a really good team on the road. I’m really happy for my guys.”
Cowan, who finished with a game-high 17 points and eight assists, called the victory “huge” and acknowledged hearing about the end of the road losing streak to ranked teams being mentioned in the dressing room.
“I was happy to get this for Coach,” he said.
The victory ended 11 years of frustration for Maryland, which had lost 27 straight road games against ranked teams, and for Turgeon, whose teams in College Park had lost 19 in a row over his eight seasons. Maryland’s previous victory over a ranked foe on the road came Jan. 19, 2008, when it upset top-ranked and heavily-favored North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Turgeon’s teams in four seasons at Texas A&M didn’t beat a ranked opponent on the road in nine tries despite the Aggies reaching the NCAA tournament each year. His last victory as a coach over a ranked team on the road came early in the final season of a seven-year stint at Wichita State in 2006-07, when the Shockers upset No. 15 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, a year after the team reached the Sweet 16.
Turgeon said he wasn’t aware of Maryland’s futility on the road against ranked teams.
“I got some texts today that said we’ve got to beat the streak. I had no idea what they were talking about,” Turgeon said. “That’s not important to me. We’ve beaten a lot of teams this year that were ranked at some point, on the road. The good thing is, I told our team yesterday, ‘I love our schedule. It’s made us tougher, it’s made us better.’
“I think it’s the hardest road schedule in the league. It gave us a lot of chances to beat good teams on the road. We guarantee ourselves at least a .500 record on the road, we’re 5-4, which is pretty spectacular considering who we’ve played with this young team on the road.”
Turgeon made a point to add he didn’t care about his own road losing streak to ranked teams (29 in a row before Tuesday).
“That didn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “People talk. I don’t care. I care about tonight.”
Not only did Cowan break out his offensive slump after averaging a shade over 10 points in his previous seven games, he also played tremendous defense on Bohannon, who finished with 14 points on 2-for-11 shooting.
The defeat stopped Iowa’s streak of two straight buzzer-beating wins, one against Northwestern on a 3-pointer by Bohannon and Saturday’s win at Rutgers when freshman wing Joe Wieskamp banked a corner 3 off a long inbounds pass that was tipped high off the top of the backboard.
The Hawkeyes hit just 19 of 58 from the field, including eight of 26 on 3-pointers.
“Iowa missed about seven wide-open 3s for us,” Turgeon said. “It could have been a 10-point lead [for the Hawkeyes] at halftime, but they missed some shots, which really helped. And we started to make shots, they went zone. Then we got our defense going. That’s what we do. We really guarded. We defended."
Asked how it felt to finally beat a ranked team on the road, Fernando said, “It feels great, man. That was a must-win for us, especially on the road. I’m just glad we got it done.”
Halftime lead without much from Fernando or Smith
After getting off to a sluggish start offensively by missing 11 of their first 12 shots — with the only made field goal being a dunk — the Terps erased an early five-point deficit by hitting four straight 3-pointers. A desperation 3 late in the shot clock by Ayala (11 points) gave Maryland a 27-23 lead at half.
It was impressive considering the Terps played much of the half without Fernando, who played just 11 minutes and sat out the last 8:13 after picking up his second foul, and freshman forward Jalen Smith (Mount Saint Joseph), who didn’t score in eight minutes and also came out after getting two fouls.
Cowan’s best game in a while
Though he had been in a shooting slump, Cowan’s defense helped Maryland beat Nebraska on the road when he held Cornhuskers guard Glynn Watson Jr. scoreless on 0-for-10 from the field. He did it again Tuesday against Bohannon.
After being drawn into a three-shot foul by Bohannon during Iowa’s 8-0 second-half run that helped the Hawkeyes take the lead, Cowan said his defense was better than his offense.
“I was locked in. Jordan Bohannon is a really good player,” Cowan said. “I really had my hands full.”
Cowan thought he was fouled on the drive that led to Fernando’s tip-in, after blocking one of Bohannon’s shots earlier in the game and when forcing a jump ball on a drive. But Cowan said he had “all ball” on Bohannon’s last attempt.
“We can go back on the film, we can do that. I knew I wasn't going to foul him,” Cowan said.
As for his offense, which included five makes on 10 3-point tries, Cowan said, “I still wasn’t myself. I still can play a lot better. I’m happy we still can come out with a win.”