COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even when the Terrapins didn’t look like their usual selves in the first half, struggling on the boards, Maryland excelled offensively. When Ohio State twice began to climb closer with runs in the second half, Maryland quickly extinguished their chances of a comeback with solid defense and timely shots.
With his young team playing on the road in the Big Ten, Coach Mark Turgeon said he was a “nervous wreck all day.” But Turgeon left Value City Arena pleased after his No. 19 Terrapins (16-3, 7-1 Big Ten) held the Buckeyes without a field goal for more than six minutes in the second half and pulled away for a 75-61 win, their seventh straight and sixth in a row in the Big Ten.
The reeling Buckeyes (12-5, 2-4) have lost four straight, but the Terrapins were thrilled to leave Columbus with a win. Maryland entered having lost three of its past five here since joining the Big Ten.
“I don’t take this win lightly,” Turgeon said. “It’s a heck of a win for our program.”
Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 20 points, 15 of which came in the second half, as he silenced the road crowd with his poise, especially in the final seconds of possessions. Five Terps reached double figures, including Bruno Fernando, the 6-foot-10 sophomore from Angola, who recorded his 10th double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Performances like those from these two players have become the norm. But on Friday, others impressed, too. Darryl Morsell had one of his best games of the season with 11 points to go along with his usual strong defense. Freshman Aaron Wiggins nailed three shots from beyond the arc and also finished with 11 points.
“It just shows we have a lot of tools,” Fernando said. “We don’t just depend on one or two guys. We have a lot of guys that can come in and step up and do things right.”
Freshman guard Eric Ayala had to be helped off the court in the second half with a left hip injury. Turgeon said the freshman starter didn’t return because he wasn’t capable of contributing. Ayala later walked on his own by the bench without a noticeable limp. When Ayala passed the media after the game, he declared that he would be fine. Even without him, Maryland had no issue pulling away from the Buckeyes.
C.J. Jackson led Ohio State with 15 points, but his team shot just 39 percent from the field, compared to Maryland’s 58.1 percent. The Terps boasted an even better mark from behind the arc, where they made 11 of 17 (64.7 percent). Kaleb Wesson, the Buckeyes' 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, ran into foul trouble early, and Fernando said that “they’re a different team without him on the court.”
After leading by seven at halftime, Maryland started the second half with three turnovers — all from Cowan — in fewer than two minutes, allowing Ohio State to score six straight points and forcing Turgeon to take a timeout.
“Coach sat us down, told us that we’re going to be okay,” Cowan said. “We just kept going defensively in the second half.”
After the timeout, Morsell hit a three, just his seventh of the season, to end the Buckeyes’ run and begin a 10-0 stretch for the Terps.
Cowan scored five points in the opening 20 minutes on 1-for-5 shooting, but had five assists — including one that gave Wiggins an open three at the first-half buzzer — and four rebounds. In the second half, Cowan morphed into his usual late-game self, saving possessions with three-pointers and finding teammates for tough assists.
“He was terrific,” Turgeon said of Cowan. “We played through him in the second half.”
Cowan’s strong play Friday came on the heels of a 19-point second half Monday against Wisconsin, and he put on a similar display at Minnesota earlier this month.
Maryland, which entered third in the country in rebound margin, struggled on the boards early against Ohio State. The Buckeyes out-rebounded the Terps by one in the first half. On the offensive boards, though, Ohio State recorded seven compared to the Terps’ two, leading to the Buckeyes’ 12-0 advantage on second-chance points at intermission.
“First of all, Wesson is a load,” Turgeon said. “Because Bruno’s a load. He was pushing Bruno around. Then we were doubling so we were always scrambling and they were getting rebounds. I didn’t feel like we could ever get a rebound in the first half. Second half, I thought we were going to get all of them.”
But the Terps’ offense helped overcome those early deficiencies. Maryland headed to the locker room after shooting 62.5 percent from the field, including 7 of 10 three-pointers. Four freshmen combined to finish the half 6-for-6 from beyond the arc, with Ayala and Wiggins sinking two apiece. By the end of the game, Wiggins hit another three, which tied Cowan’s team high.
With the game tied late in the first half, freshman Jalen Smith nailed a three-pointer, then Morsell turned a steal into an easy dunk. Fernando capped off the Terps’ 8-0 run with a three-point play when he was fouled on a layup. After that, the Terps were never threatened.
“Getting a win on someone else’s court is really hard in the Big Ten,” Wiggins said. “That was a really big moment for us.”