After Jalen Smith and Bruno Fernando carried Maryland to the brink of victory, Anthony Cowan Jr. emphatically finished off Penn State.
Cowan made two clutch 3-pointers in the closing minutes, and the 24th-ranked Terrapins opened Big Ten play with a 66-59 victory Saturday.
Smith scored 16 points, and Fernando had 12 points and 13 rebounds. But Cowan, who struggled for much of the game, came up big when Maryland needed it most.
The junior guard buried a 3 with 2 minutes, 14 seconds left to make it 61-55. After the Nittany Lions got within two points, Cowan hoisted a 27-footer as the shot clock expired, and it swished through the net to clinch it with 34 seconds to go.
“Cowan made the plays at the end. That’s what a great player does,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said.
Prior to those two shots, Cowan had six turnovers and was 4 for 10 from the field.
“He’s got a very short-term memory. He’s got amnesia,” Chambers said. “He had six turnovers, but that’s not going to affect the way he plays.”
No, it won’t. Not for the team leader on a squad filled with freshmen and sophomores.
“I wasn’t making the best decisions with the ball,” Cowan acknowledged. “But when it came down to it, I just wanted to make sure I made shots, give our team the best chance to win the game.”
Maryland (7-1, 1-0) held on to secure a bounce-back victory following a 76-71 loss to No. 4 Virginia earlier in the week.
Coming off a 63-62 upset of No. 13 Virginia Tech on Tuesday, the Nittany Lions (4-3) nearly knocked off another ranked team. They led 31-30 at halftime, erased an eight-point deficit in the second half and gave Maryland all it could handle on its own floor.
Lamar Stevens scored 19 on 9-for-24 shooting, Josh Reaves had all 17 of his points in the first half and Rasir Bolton finished with 15 for Penn State.
“Defensively, we did enough to win the game,” Chambers said. “But we need another scorer out there. We can’t just rely on Stevens for 20 Big Ten games. That’s unfair to the kid. It’s unfair to our team.”
Penn State simply couldn’t handle the Terrapins’ inside game. With Fernando and Smith leading the way, Maryland finished with a 40-28 rebounding advantage and outscored the Nittany Lions, 18-4, at the foul line.
Fernando became the first Terp to notch three straight double-doubles since Jordan Williams in 2011.
Maryland went up 47-39 with 12:53 left when Fernando sent an alley-oop pass to Smith for a dunk. As he headed the other way down the court, Fernando raised his arms and waved his hands, asking the crowd of 15,481 to cheer the Terps on.
The enthusiasm waned when Penn State responded with a 9-0 run to move back in front.
Neither team could pull away, which was typical of this budding rivalry. Since Maryland joined the Big Ten, each of the seven games between the teams has been decided by seven points or less.