Cowan’s night included six assists and plenty of strong decision-making. He created points out of situations that might have ended with turnovers earlier in his career. Turgeon said the senior is “helping me coach the team” when the group needs a jolt. Facing a ranked team on a roll, Cowan had perhaps the most complete game of his career.
“Anthony Cowan was off the charts — efficient, fast, a pest,” Turgeon said. “He’s having fun. He was really, really good.”
Then there’s Jalen Smith, the other key cog in No. 15 Maryland’s hopes for a meaningful tournament run. Smith has maintained the dominance he showed last week, scoring 18 points on nine shots. He added 14 rebounds en route to his fourth straight double-double, and affected shots around the rim with five blocks, tying his career high.
The win was Maryland’s fourth straight, starting when the Terps (17-4, 7-3 Big Ten) turned around a 14-point halftime deficit at Northwestern on Jan. 21. Maryland stayed perfect at home and snapped Iowa’s five-game winning streak, which began with a dominant performance Jan. 10 against the Terps, who had their worst showing of the season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It’s a huge confidence boost,” Smith said of the Terps’ four-game winning streak. “Pretty much giving the world notice of how we can play. We know we can play.”
Hawkeyes star Luka Garza, a former All-Met from Maret, scored 21 points, but eight of those came in the final 90 seconds. Smith didn’t finish with the flashy scorelines he had last week — 25 points at Northwestern, then 29 points at Indiana — but he still played at a familiar high level and helped hold Garza in check. The Terps were helped by Garza’s early foul trouble.
“Garza, what a great player he is,” Turgeon said. “Almost impossible to guard, especially with all the shooters and how fast they’re moving. Makes it hard to double. But Stix really played smart defense tonight. I don’t think he gets enough credit for how good he is defensively.”
Garza, the Big Ten’s leader in scoring, picked up his second foul fewer than five minutes into the game. He headed to the bench at the 15:15 mark, and Iowa played without him for nearly nine minutes. But the Terps still trailed by one when he returned, unable to take much advantage of his absence.
But when Garza, a 6-foot-11 junior, picked up his fourth foul after the second half’s midpoint, Maryland had a short burst and the Hawkeyes (15-6, 6-4) let the game unravel from there.
“We’re a different team with Luka,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “The more he’s out there, the better we are.”
Sophomore guard Aaron Wiggins scored 14 points on 18 shots, and Darryl Morsell scored 10. The Terps didn’t shoot particularly well, making just 45.6 percent from the field, but still took a four-point lead into halftime. Neither team led by more than six in the first half. Even though the Terps eventually secured the emphatic victory, the game remained tight through about 30 minutes.
“I just feel like I survived something tonight,” Turgeon said.
Turgeon met with Morsell earlier this week, reminding him of how he needed to embrace his defensive identity. Joe Wieskamp, one of the Hawkeyes’ best shooters, scored eight points through the first eight minutes, but after that, Maryland held the sophomore without a field goal until the 9:45 mark of the season half. When the Terps visited Iowa, Wieskamp led his team with a career-high 26 points, but Morsell helped contain him to 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Maryland led, 52-49, before going on a 10-0 run midway through the second half that turned the game. The spurt included a dunk from Smith and three-pointers from Eric Ayala and Wiggins.
The Terps appear have taken positive strides as they move into the heart of the Big Ten schedule. Three weeks ago, they were blown out at Iowa and seemed adrift. Now, they head into February having flipped the script.
“Are we playing our best basketball? Probably,” Turgeon said. “But I just think there’s more in us.”