COLLEGE PARK – On the heels of a 30-point walloping at top-ranked Michigan State and losing forwards Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender to season-ending injuries, Sunday night’s pit with Big Ten-worst Iowa presented a pristine opportunity for the depleted Terrapins to regain traction.
Up to the 12-minute mark in the second half, the 15,352 fans inside of XFINITY Center spectated uneasily and Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon brimmed with agitation as Iowa never relented and turned the Terrapins’ bounce-back night into a three-point lead after making its 10th 3-pointer.
Then sophomore guard Anthony Cowan put on the shifters for a pair of three-point plays and freshman Bruno Fernando rocked the rim with crowd-jolting slams to fuel a separating run that pushed Maryland past Iowa, 91-73, and move them back over the .500 hump in conference play.
“It was really important for us,” Fernando said. “It was a big game, because that was a tough loss. But we were able to bounce back tonight. It feels good to get back on the winning track.”
With 12 minutes to go, everything was knotted at 61-61 and then on the next Iowa possession, Jordan Bohannon (17 points on 5-for-10 from deep) drilled a 3 at the top of the key to put the Hawkeyes ahead. But Fernando, like he’s done best through 17 games, fueled Maryland energizing plays and flamboyancy, which triggered the decisive 19-2 run that lasted nearly six minutes. Fernando responded Bohannon’s 3 with a slam on the other end and not long after that, threw down a mean one-handed alley-oop from Cowan that pushed the Terrapins’ lead to 84-70.
Cowan (15 points, seven assists), who mustered four points in the first half, solely off free throws, put Maryland for good, 65-64, with a hard take to the rack. Two minutes later, Cowan slipped around his defender and to the rim for a three-point play, and after that, Maryland finally created separation at 74-66.
For the game, Iowa shot 52.4 percent from deep (11-for-21) and 49.1 percent overall (28-for-57). Maryland, meanwhile, shot 56.7 percent overall (34-for-60), but just 23.5 percent from 3-point land (4-for-17.)
From the onset, Maryland pounded the ball inside on Iowa’s overmatched frontcourt. Fernando scored the Terrapins’ first five points in the post and upped it to 11 halfway through the first quarter. The freshman fended off double teams in the paint for a career-high 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting, as well as seven rebounds, a pair of assists and a block.
Dion Wiley (10 piints on 4-for-5 shooting in 15 minutes) came off the bench after the first media timeout and provided instant offense before taking a hit to the face that limited further playing time. When Maryland faced its largest deficit, 17-7, five minutes into regulation, Wiley finished a layup that made it 17-9 and connected from deep twice to pull Maryland to 22-17 and 24-20. Minutes later, Wiley made a pull-up jumper that capped a 12-0 run, which put Maryland ahead 29-24.
Michal Cekovsky added 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting. Kevin Huerter contributed 12 points, six assists and six rebounds. Darryl Morsell pitched in 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
“We got better tonight. That’s really what matters,” Turgeon said. “We’re getting better in a lot of phases. … Considering what we’ve been through, we’re getting better.”