Maryland basketball: Terps keep home winning streak alive vs Rutgers

No. 9 Maryland basketball (18-4, 8-3 Big Ten) is now in a position to take the top spot in Big Ten play with a close win over a talented Rutgers Scarlet Knights team (16-7, 7-5 Big Ten).

Maryland basketball has continued to play hard and it has paid off for them big time. Their rise in conference play is in large part due to the play of Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith.

Both of these guys made the cut for the Wooden Award Late-Season Top-20 list and the Terps have had back to back Big Ten Player of the Week honorees.

Rutgers came into this game with the Big Ten’s second-best scoring defense (61 points per game) behind Purdue’s 60.

Jalen Smith got six early points on the board for the Terps with two-three-pointers. He recorded a steal on the Scarlet Knights first possession.

A Darryl Morsell three-pointer caused a Rutgers timeout and gave the Terps a 14-6 lead. They went on a 6-0 run and shots were falling from the perimeter early (4-of-7).

An Akwasi Yeboah three-pointer and a Chol Marial goaltending call put the Scarlet Knights within a point, 14-13. Yeboah and Montez Mathis helped them take the lead 23-18 later in the game.

At the 6:12 mark, Yeboah led all scorers with 11 points. Maryland’s offense was stagnant under five minutes left in the first half. They scored four points in seven and a half minutes.

Cowan Jr.’s pair of free throws ended a scoreless drought of 7:38. Rutgers had a 25-20 lead under two minutes to go until halftime.

The Scarlet Knights went into halftime with that lead and even though the Terps were only down five, they needed to find a rhythm offensively to prevent that lead from growing.

The Scarlet Knights stout defense brought them back in the first half after the Terps got out to a strong start. Cowan Jr. needed to get going in the second half. Eric Ayala was held scoreless.

Donta Scott got Maryland’s first bucket in the last 9:41 to start the second half. Morsell followed that up by driving to the rim and rising up for a two-handed slam. After a Smith block on the defensive end, Morsell scored a transition layup to cut the Scarlet Knights lead to 27-26.

The Terps took the lead back with a three-pointer and a monster slam that led to a three-point play by Jalen Smith.

Maryland basketball had a 44-36 lead under eight minutes to go after a pair of threes hit the bottom of the net from Aaron Wiggins and Cowan Jr. They were now in a position to take control of the game.

Under-five minutes to go, the Terps had a 47-43 lead and the Scarlet Knights were getting production out of Mathis and Ron Harper Jr.

A flagrant one foul was called on Cowan Jr. against Mathis. He made both free throws and Harper Jr. drained a mid-range jumper to tie the game at 47.

Cowan was fouled behind the three-point line, made all three free throws and gave the Terps a three-point lead for the moment.

This game came down to the final minute and a costly turnover by Rutgers gave Maryland basketball a chance to extend their lead with free throws. With 26.9 seconds left, the game was in the balance.

The Terps secured their 13th home victory and remained undefeated at the Xfinity Center with a 56-51 win.

This win was also their eighth straight against Rutgers. Cowan Jr. finished with 17 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Smith got his fifth straight double-double with 14 points, 15 rebounds and a whopping six blocks. Morsell also contributed big minutes with 14 points and six rebounds.

Yeboah and Mathis combined for 23 points and 14 rebounds as the Scarlet Knights only double-figure scorers.

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Give Rutgers credit. They fought until the end to get a huge win on the road, but late fouls, turnovers and free throws worked in the Terps favor down the stretch. The Terps play Illinois on the road Friday at 8 pm on FS1. Rutgers plays Northwestern Sunday at the Rutgers Athletic Center on the Big Ten Network.