Maryland kicked off the New Year on a high note, beating Penn State 75-69 in front of more than 14,000 fans at the Xfinity Center on Tuesday night.
Terps’ guard Anthony Cowan Jr. tallied a game-high 18 points, four rebounds and four assists in 40 minutes of play. Freshman forward Bruno Fernando posted his first career double-double, 17 points and 11 rebounds. Fernando showed off his ability to hit the pull-up jumper in the second half.
“Obviously, everybody knows we got unlucky with the injuries,” Maryland forward Michal Cekovsky said. “I think we’re still kind of deep, even with those injuries on the bench. I think we had a really good game, so it feels good.”
Sophomore guard Kevin Huerter was limited in the first half due to the two fouls he picked up during the opening minutes.
Maryland trailed by three with 12:20 to go in the first half before Cowan helped spark a 9-0 run, which put the Terps ahead 19-13.
Penn State forward Tony Carr, who finished with 16 points and eight assists, made a pair of three-pointers in the final minutes of the first half to give the Nittany Lions a four-point lead going into halftime.
Huerter only took one shot attempt in the first half.
Fernando got the Terps going in the second half, scoring five straight points. Maryland fans rose from their seats when freshman Joshua Tomaic found senior Jared Nickens open for a three-pointer, which tied the game at 48 with under 12 minutes to play in the game.
“We had Kevin Huerter in foul trouble in the first half, like I say, ‘we always adjust,’ and I think we did a good job,” Cekovsky said. “We went down four at half time and we came back strong with the mindset that we want to win the game.”
Maryland freshman Darryl Morsell struggled for the most part, going 2-10 and air balling two three-point attempt. However, Morsell came through when needed as he buried a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 61 with 4:36 to left in regulation.
“I feel like when that went in, we were going to probably win the game,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “[Morsell] works at it. He probably works too hard at it. Probably been part of the problem with his shooting. He actually ices his wrist and has a heat pack on before the game because he practices his shooting so much.”
Cekovsky gave Maryland a two-point advantage with a slam dunk. The Terps’ big man tallied 10 points and six rebounds.
Huerter came through down the stretch, driving to the basket for a jumper then iced the game with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds. Huerter ended up with 13 points and didn’t get into foul trouble throughout the second half.
“To play without fouling in the second half, just tells you that [Huerter’s] a great player,” Turgeon said. “I’m not sure I took him out, I’m sure he played 20 minutes in the second half.”
Morsell registered nine points and four boards, while going 4-8 from the free throw line.
Maryland’s defense played a big role in the second half as the Terps held Penn State to 3-13 shooting during the final minutes.
“Coach preaches to us about defense a lot, so we had to lock down and just make sure that we get a lot of stops and we did get a lot in the second half,” Fernando said. “We got a lot of stops, which helped us on the offensive side.”
The Terps did a solid job limiting the turnovers compared to other games. Maryland only gave up five turnovers, which Turgeon credits to playing at a slower pace.
“We played slower, and Anthony had a lot to do with that,” Turgeon said. “We tried to dictate the pace a little bit with our offense, we’re still trying to figure that out.”
With Justin Jackson and Ivan Bender out, Maryland had to make adjustments to the starting lineup. The Terps’ had Fernando and Cekovsky play in the frontcourt together for the first time this season.
“I think we’ll get a lot more rebounds and we’ll be able to stop a lot more people on the defensive side,” Fernando said. “This is one thing that we’ve probably worked on for just a few days and its actually good to be out there on the court with him at the same time. It gives us a lot more of an advantage against other teams.”
Maryland will have a big road test ahead of them on Thursday when the Terps will face Michigan State, who is ranked the best team in the nation.
“It’s going to be a good game with their crows and Michigan State is always a big game every year,” Cekovsky said. “I’ve been here for four years and I know it’s a great game day every time. It’s going to be a great challenge and like we always do, we’re going to take the challenge and try to win the game.”