The Maryland men's basketball team lost at No. 23 Michigan, 68-67, Jan. 15. The loss dropped the Terps to 14-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten. Here are four observations on the loss:
1. Maryland's late-game comeback went for naught.
It appeared Michigan might coast to victory after a basket by sophomore forward Charles Matthews put the Wolverines up, 59-49, with 5:50 left regulation. But the Terps rallied to score the next five points to get back in the game, and the teams exchanged body blows during the final four minutes of regulation. Sophomore guards Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan Jr. both made huge 3-pointers down the stretch; Cowan's closed the Terps' deficit to 66-64 with 20 seconds left.
Maryland fouled Michigan sophomore guard Zavier Simpson, a poor free-throw shooter, after Cowan's 3-pointer. Simpson missed both shots, giving the Terps a chance to tie or take the lead. Though Maryland had no timeouts remaining to set up a play, it didn't matter; it got an open 3-pointer for Huerter thanks to a screen by redshirt freshman forward Joshua Tomaic away from the ball.
Huerter hit the shot
to give the Terps a 67-66 lead with 3.2 seconds left.
Michigan had the go the length of the court for a chance to win the game, and Wolverines head coach John Beilein called a timeout to draw up a play. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon opted not to guard Beilein's inbounder, instead sending five defenders deep. The Terps lost Michigan's Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who caught the inbounds pass around halfcourt with a head of steam toward Maryland's basket. He drove hard to the hoop, got tripped up by Terps freshman Bruno Fernando and won the game by making two free throws with 1.2 seconds left.
2. What would've been a resume-boosting win quickly turned into the toughest loss of the season for Maryland.
The Terps have suffered some close losses this year; their first three losses of the year were all by five points or less and came within a week of one another in late November and early December. But Maryland's one-point loss to Michigan was its toughest of the season thus far. A victory would've offered a major lift for an injury-plagued team that had lost two of its past three games.
It also would've added a bullet point to Maryland's NCAA Tournament resume. When Huerter gave the Terps the lead with 3.2 seconds left, it was the perfect opportunity for Maryland to clinch the road victory it craved after getting hit by a buzz saw at Michigan State Jan. 4 and playing poorly at Ohio State Jan. 11.
The only other potential road resume builders might be Indiana Jan. 22 and Purdue Jan. 31, but Maryland will be a significant underdog in the latter. It'll put pressure on the Terps to take care of business at home. They'll have opportunities against Michigan State and Michigan on their home floor later in the season, but first, Maryland needs to get back on the right track with a win against Minnesota at home Jan. 18.
With six weeks left in the regular season, it's too early to draw conclusions on NCAA Tournament possibilities. But come March, Terps fans might bemoan the final 3.2 seconds Jan. 15.
3. It was also a tough loss because Maryland did so many things well.
One of the things that stuck out most about the Terps' 91-69 loss at Ohio State was how poorly they played defensively. Their closeouts on 3-point shooters left a lot to be desired, as did their transition defense and handling of ball screens. It was the second time in three games they had given up 91 points.
Maryland responded by giving up just 20 points in the first half at Michigan. The Wolverines missed open layups and 3-pointers to help the Terps, but Maryland's effort and intensity was much better than the last time it took the court. The Wolverines shot 9-of-29 from the field during the half.
The Terps also struggled to withstand inevitable runs by the Buckeyes. Ohio State finished the first half Jan. 11 on a 31-12 run, with Maryland never coming close to stopping the bleeding, and it carried over to the second half.
Against Michigan, the Terps counterpunched when the Wolverines made a run. Michigan made runs of 14-0 and 7-0 in the second half, and at one point made 3-pointers on five consecutive possessions. Maryland made the necessary counterpunches to win at a quality team's gym. It just didn't finish the job.
4. Cowan was outstanding.
Cowan played all 40 minutes and never took a break from handling the ball. He finished the game with 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range. He also grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists.
Cowan and Huerter have faced a big responsibility to play well every night all year, but especially since sophomore Justin Jackson was shut down with a torn labrum. The pair has played as well as can possibly be expected, particularly Cowan, who's barely taken a minute off during Big Ten play. Neither is a secret, either, as they're likely the top two players in any opponent's scouting report.
Cowan is averaging 16.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.