EAST LANSING, MICH. — In a four-year career that will ultimately be remembered for winning and big plays in key moments, senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr.'s three-minute surge in East Lansing might top them all.
Here are three things we learned from Maryland’s big night at Michigan State:
Anthony Cowan Jr. delivered a highlight moment in a career filled with them.
When Michigan State forward Aaron Henry hit a jumper to give the Spartans a seven-point lead with a little over three minutes remaining, it looked like the Terps had finally met their match on the road. Maryland had found itself in this position before — down 14 at the half at Northwestern, down 14 in the first half at Illinois — but Saturday night felt different. The Terps had blown a 15-point first-half lead. The Breslin Center was rocking and the Spartans had all the momentum.
Then Anthony Cowan Jr. happened.
After sophomore forward Jalen Smith hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to four, the senior guard scored the game’s final 11 points, including three-straight 3s, giving Maryland its first win against Michigan State since he was a freshman.
“'Ant’s a killer,” Smith said. “He can hit any shot, I believe. I believe if he heaves it up from half-court, he’ll hit it.
“We see it all the time in practice. He’s pretty much shooting it with a hand in his face every time and making sure that he’s always getting the best shot for us.”
However Cowan’s career at Maryland ends — he’s been steadfast in his desire to finish it with some sort of hardware — his highlight reel will consist of a variety of big shots when the Terps needed it badly.
Earlier in the season, Maryland rallied back from 15-point deficit at home against Illinois. The Terps ended the game on an 11-2 run and Cowan’s deep 3 tied the game with 19 seconds left. He later hit the game-winning free throw as Maryland escaped its Big Ten opener with a win.
Cowan’s heroics in East Lansing seemed to be of greater proportions, taking place in what coach Mark Turgeon called “one of the best buildings in the country” and against a team coached by one of the “best coaches in our generation” in Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
The Terps might be as comfortable coming back on the road as they are playing at Xfinity Center.
Maryland is 14-0 at home this season, but many of the team’s signature wins have come away from the Xfinity Center.
Late last season, Maryland escaped Iowa with a 66-65 win over the then-No. 21 Hawkeyes. It was a proverbial monkey off Turgeon’s back. Before the game, Turgeon had not beaten a ranked opponent on the road as the Terps’ coach.
This season’s team has been marked by its resiliency on the road. Last week, the team came back from down 15 to beat then-No. 22 Illinois in Champaign.
Saturday night’s victory came over a Michigan State team that had just recently dropped out of the Top 25 but was still as tough as any opponent to beat on the road.
When recounting the final minutes of Maryland’s loss on the road a month ago to Wisconsin — a game in which the Terps fell apart holding a one-point lead — Turgeon said that his team didn’t believe they would be able to pull out the win.
He added that his players had stopped paying attention to the chatter regarding their team and started focusing on the task at hand.
“Sometimes that’s how you have to win in this building, kind of sneak up right there in the end and get it done,” Turgeon said. “That’s four on the road for us when everybody was wondering if we were ever going to win one on the road, so it means a lot.”
Jalen Smith was again up to the task against one of the conference top’s big men.
Part of Smith’s maturity and growth in his sophomore year has been defined by his quality play when facing top bigs in the Big Ten.
Smith did it against Purdue’s Matt Haarms, then bounced back in his second matchup against Iowa’s Luka Garza and now against Xavier Tillman.
Though Tillman, who recorded a team-high 18 points and 11 rebounds, had what Turgeon said might have been a “career night,” Smith held his own, recording his eighth straight double double and hitting the 3-pointer that sparked Maryland’s 14-0 run to finish the game.
After picking up his second foul with four minutes remaining in the first half, Smith was able to defend Tillman in the second half without picking up any more fouls.
Smith’s length was also valuable in defending Michigan State’s pick-and-roll with Tillman and senior guard Cassius Winston, who combined to account for 32 of the Spartan’s 60 points and six of their 13 assists.
“Most of the fouls in the first half, they were kind of like flimsy fouls,” Smith said. “Me not standing still on the pick or jumping on the wrong shot. But [in the] second half, I just tried to stay out of trouble because I knew my team needed me on the floor to get rebounds and help play defense.”
NORTHWESTERN@NO. 9 MARYLAND
Tuesday, 8 p.m.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 105.7 FM