The Maryland Terrapins began their home game against No. 22 Indiana without energy and without poise. Turnovers, poor shot selection and defensive miscues led to a double-digit deficit barely four minutes into the Big Ten contest.
“We wouldn’t have won that game before Christmas,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “We wouldn’t have figured it out.”
But on Friday, after Maryland headed into intermission trailing by eight, the Terps unleashed Bruno Fernando and Anthony Cowan Jr. to rally for a 78-75 win, the fifth time this season they’ve turned a halftime deficit into a victory. Maryland (14-3, 5-1 Big Ten) won its fifth straight, four of which have come in conference play. Indiana fell to 12-4, 3-2.
“We’re definitely figuring out ways to win, which is always a good thing,” Cowan said.
Fernando, the Terps’ standout sophomore, scored a career-high 25 points with 13 rebounds, three assists and a block. Cowan added 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Together, their ability can overcome a slow start, even against a ranked opponent with stars of its own.
Fernando, who made 11 of his 12 attempts from the field, fired up his teammates and the Xfinity Center crowd in the second half, hitting a three-pointer and a driving layup on successive possessions, then pounding his chest and screaming toward the ceiling.
“We’re just growing, growing, growing,” Fernando said. “We’re taking huge steps in the right direction.”
Indiana opened the second half with a quick layup, which frustrated Turgeon because he said his players “walked through that play.” But starting with the next possession, Maryland made shots while Indiana missed. The offense clicked, and the Terps turned the game with a 16-0 run to grab the lead, which they kept until the final buzzer.
Freshman Romeo Langford led the Hoosiers with 28 points, including 12 in the final four minutes. Langford hit three three-pointers and was perfect on his nine free throw attempts. Langford and the Hoosiers narrowed Maryland’s lead to four points with 26 seconds to go, but the Terps sealed the win at the free throw line. Indiana’s Devonte Green made a three-pointer with one second on the clock to trim the Terps’ lead to the smallest it had been since early in the second half.
Maryland’s first-half deficit swelled to 13 through eight minutes of play, fueled by four turnovers and misses on 11 of 13 shots. The Terrapins shot just 10 of 31 from the field in the first half and had eight turnovers. Despite 10 offensive rebounds, the Terps had no second-chance points.
Maryland blitzed the Hoosiers to start the second half, however, and by the time Fernando threw down a dunk with 16:09 remaining the game was tied. Cowan and Darryl Morsell then hit back-to-back three-pointers, prompting an earsplitting roar from the Xfinity Center crowd.
“We’ve got to do a better job of coming out stronger and asserting ourselves early instead of being that comeback team,” said freshman Eric Ayala, who scored 14 points, including two three-pointers. “It’s fun though. Get a little fight. It brings us together as a team.”
The Hoosiers guarded Maryland as well as any team has this season, Turgeon said, but in the second half, they couldn’t contain Fernando and Cowan. Cowan had been playing well, but now, Turgeon said, the junior is starting to make shots and is “taking it to another level.”
“I still think the key to their team goes through Anthony Cowan,” Indiana Coach Archie Miller said. “When he’s playing like that, they’re tough to deal with.”
Miller said his team benefited when he put Langford on Cowan late in the game, adding how in last year’s matchup the Hoosiers better contained Cowan because they had a stronger, more physical player guarding him. Cowan didn’t make a shot from the field in the final 10 minutes, but he made his six free throws in the final minute.
The game featured two of the conference’s highly touted freshmen, Langford and Maryland’s Jalen Smith. Langford — the nation’s No. 7 overall recruit last year, according to 247 Sports — impressed against the Terps while Smith struggled, missing all nine of his field goal attempts and finishing with just two points.
But even without Smith’s usual double-digit scoring effort, Fernando and Cowan powered a rally that kept the Terps hot heading into their Monday night game against Wisconsin, another strong Big Ten foe.
“There’s just something in them,” Turgeon said of how his players respond to deficits. “It took us a while to get comfortable in the regular season, but I think you can see us getting more comfortable and winning some big games.”
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