Gophers hang tough, but Maryland pulls away with second-half run
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Desperate for a bounce-back victory, Maryland got what it was looking for against a weary Minnesota squad stuck in the middle of an unwanted road trip.
Kevin Huerter scored 19 points, Anthony Cowan Jr. had a career-high 10 assists and the Terrapins used a strong second half to notch a 77-66 victory Thursday night.
Michal Cekovsky delivered 10 of his 17 points during an 18-2 run that gave the Terrapins a 50-34 lead against the Golden Gophers, who could not summon the energy to make a comeback.
"Great win for us," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "We did a lot of great things. We shared the ball, we're getting better and we responded. We were mentally tough tonight, especially in the second half."
Coming off an agonizing defeat at Michigan in which they blew a 10-point halftime lead, the Terps (15-6, 4-4 Big Ten) shot a sizzling 68 percent in the second half and led by as many as 17 points.
Cowan did his part by distributing the ball and scoring all 15 of his points over the final 12 minutes, one of four starters to finish in double figures.
"We were just really good offensively," Turgeon said.
Jordan Murphy had 19 points and 14 rebounds for Minnesota, his nation-leading 19th double-double of the season. The Golden Gophers are in the middle of a stretch of three games over six days, concluding with a matchup against No. 22 Ohio State in New York on Saturday afternoon for a game that was originally scheduled to be played in Minnesota.
"The Big Ten is not doing us any favors. Play Thursday night at 8:30 and have to fly to New York and have to play at noon (Saturday)," coach Richard Pitino said. "Lose a home game there. It's not fair, but oh well."
Minnesota (14-7, 3-5) finished 23 for 64 (36 percent) from the floor and made only three baskets in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
"We just weren't making shots," Pitino said. "Very, very difficult to win right now."
The Golden Gophers were without injured guard Amir Coffey (shoulder), who missed his fifth straight game, and senior center Reggie Lynch, who's been suspended since Jan. 5.
Minnesota led 32-29 before Huerter hit a 3-pointer to spark the decisive run. The 7-foot-1 Cekovsky followed with the first of his five dunks in a span of just over 5 minutes, most of them on alley-oop passes from his guards.
With Huerter leading the way, Maryland made 10 of its first 12 field-goal tries after halftime.
In the first half, the Terrapins trailed 16-10 before Huerter scored eight points in a 13-0 run. It was 29-21 before Minnesota rattled off seven straight points to end the half.
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers can be forgiven for their recent slump, given that they're missing two of their best players. But they can't afford to feel sorry for themselves if they want to survive this stretch that features one home game from Jan. 15 to Feb. 3.
Maryland: The Terrapins desperately needed this victory after losing three of four. Now at .500 in the conference after beating a depleted Minnesota squad, Maryland can regroup during a stretch in which it plays just one game over the next nine days.
Pitino made it clear that he wasn't happy about playing three Big Ten games in six days, the first time Minnesota has been forced to do so since 1991.
"We've been on the road since Sunday," he said. "We haven't been able to practice and tonight we have to fly to New York as well. Just got to make it work."
Minnesota: Matchup with Ohio State is part of the third annual "Super Saturday -- College Hoops & Hockey" at Madison Square Garden, which also features the Golden Gophers against Michigan State on the ice.
Maryland: Seeks to end a three-game road skid on Tuesday night at Indiana.