MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Cowan Jr. matched his career high with 27 points and freshman Jalen Smith pitched in a season-best 21 points and eight rebounds, leading Maryland’s rally past Minnesota on Tuesday night for a 82-67 victory fueled by sharp free-throw shooting.
Bruno Fernando added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (13-3, 4-1 Big Ten), who went 24 for 27 from the foul line. Cowan, who also had six rebounds and five assists, made all 10 of his free throws as Maryland finished the game with a 21-6 run over the final seven minutes.
Amir Coffey had 16 points and five assists for the Gophers (12-3, 2-2), who clanked their way to defeat by missing 14 of their 23 foul shots. Coffey was 3 for 8, and senior power forward Jordan Murphy was 3 for 9.
The Gophers had a lead as big as 44-36 early in the second half and were still in front as late as the 13-minute mark, but Cowan, the junior point guard on one of the most inexperienced teams in the country, steered the Terrapins to a steely win that will look good in front of the NCAA Tournament selection committee in two months. Cowan had 23 points in the second half.
“He likes getting in the lane, drawing fouls, so with that kind of quickness you’ve got to try to keep that guy in front of you,” Gophers guard Dupree McBrayer said, “but it’s so hard because he’s so fast.”
Smith zipped a cross-court pass out of a double team down low to find Eric Ayala for a 3-pointer and a 67-61 lead for Maryland, which coach Mark Turgeon declared the play of the game. About three minutes later, Smith put the seal on the victory with a driving dunk for a 75-67 advantage.
“By far his best effort,” Turgeon said, “and he’s had a lot of really good games.”
With a win over Nebraska and a victory at Rutgers, Maryland started the new year and the resumption of conference play strong. This trip to Minnesota’s cozy Williams Arena was a stiffer test, giving the young Terrapins the opportunity to win consecutive road games for the first time in nearly two years when they posted victories at Minnesota and Ohio State on Jan. 28 and 31, 2017. They went 2-8 on the home courts of their opponents last season.
“We just keep getting better. Don’t sleep on the fact that when we made our run we had four freshmen on the floor,” Turgeon said.
Gabe Kalscheur scored 13 points, Daniel Oturu had 11 points and 11 rebounds and McBrayer added 10 points for the Gophers.
The Gophers entered the game with the second-worst 3-point shooting percentage in the Big Ten, but the freshman Kalscheur, who was just 6 for 34 from behind the arc over the last seven games, came through with three makes in five tries from long range. The most clutch of those was at the 7:50 mark, cutting Maryland’s lead to 62-61, but the Terrapins snapped right back with seven straight points to retake control.
With the imposing length inside of Smith and Fernando, their 6-foot-10 duo, the Gophers needed to establish a rhythm with their outside shooting, but nearly every time the Terrapins employed their 2-3 zone defense they successfully kept the home team out of sync.
Coffey ran down a loose ball late in the first half to feed McBrayer for a banked-in 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 1:50 mark, and Coffey scored his first point with a free throw on the next possession. His turnaround with 32 seconds left before the break gave the Gophers a 40-34 advantage, and the junior in his first season as the point guard kept up his aggression to the basket in the second half.
Coffey’s feed to Eric Curry for a short jumper gave Minnesota a 54-47 lead, but Cowan led another charge by the Terrapins after that, and this time the Gophers didn’t come up with a counter.
“They put us in a few binds, and we pretty much didn’t handle the last three minutes of the game the way we should have,” Murphy said, sitting next to McBrayer in the interview room. “As two veterans who have been here for four years, we’ve got to do a better job of being captains and settling everybody down.”
Six consecutive Big Ten teams were just below the cut in voting for the latest edition of the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska and Maryland finished 27th through 32nd to give the conference 10 teams with votes from the 64-person panel this week.
Maryland: After missing the NCAA Tournament last season after a three-year streak of making it, Turgeon’s team has a promising nucleus that can only grow in confidence from this win.
Minnesota: Coming off a rousing and rare road win at rival Wisconsin last week, the Gophers bricked away their chance to build some momentum going into the heart of the Big Ten schedule.
Maryland: Returns home to play 22nd-ranked Indiana on Friday night.
Minnesota: Stays home to face Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.