After losing starting small forward Justin Jackson and key frontcourt reserve Ivan Bender to season-ending injuries, and stuck in the pack of a down Big Ten with a bland resume lacking a signature win, Maryland basketball took another wretched spiral down its snakebitten season Monday night at Indiana.
Freshman forward Bruno Fernando stumbled to the Assembly Hall floor in the early stages of the second half, clutching his right ankle in pain as Maryland saw an already depleted frontcourt thin some more.
Fernando exited the contest, a 71-68 loss, and suffered a right ankle sprain, which will sideline him for the foreseeable future. Now, Maryland (15-7, 4-5), which lost its fourth straight conference road game, is back to eight healthy scholarship players. And that includes little-used grad transfer from Duke, Sean Obi, who’s appeared in just 14 of 22 games, averaging 6.1 minutes per contest.
According to ESPN’s Sean Walder, Maryland’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament have no lessened from 79 percent to 57 percent.
“It’s a tough year for us. We just have to keep battling,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re getting better. We just weren’t good enough tonight offensively on our execution to win this game.”
Fernando led all Maryland big-men in points per game at 9.8, rebounds per game at 6.0, blocks per game at 1.5, and free throw percentage at 71.4 percent.
Maryland, now in sole possession of seventh in the conference — five games behind Ohio State — was led by Anthony Cowan, who scored a team-high 18 points (8 of 16 shooting), while adding five steals, four rebounds and four assists. The sophomore point guard played the entire 40 minutes and had a chance to tie the score with six seconds left but his shot bounced off the rim.
Sophomore wing Kevin Huerter had another well-rounded performance, netting 16 points (6 of 9 shooting), grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing five assists in 39 minutes. Senior guard Jared Nickens pitched in 12 points in 19 minutes off the bench on 4-for-7 shooting from deep. But Maryand received zero offensive contributions from its starting frontcourt in Joshua Tomaic and Michal Cekovsky, who combined to go 0-for-5 in a scoreless performance.
Fernando did finish with six points in which he made all three of his shots, but left the contest five minutes into the second half.
Maryland shot 52 percent in the first half (14-for-27) and 50 percent from deep (5-for-10), and only trailed 32-29. But the Terrapins struggled down the stretch, making just 31 percent of its shots over the final 20 minutes (9-for-29), including a 4-for-13 mark from deep (31 percent). Maryland ended up shooting 41.1 percent overall, while Indiana shot 50 percent on the button.
The Hoosiers took advantage of the razor-thin Maryland interior, holding a 40-22 advantage in points in the paint. But the Terrapins did win the rebound battle, 39-28.
Maryland will now enter its toughest stretch of the regular season, hosting top-ranked Michigan State on Sunday at 1 p.m. before traveling to ranked Purdue, next Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. After that, games versus Wisconsin and Penn State await.