Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon knew Oklahoma State guard Jawun Evans could take over at any point in the game Saturday night.
Like guard Melo Trimble does for the Terps, Turgeon said, Evans sets the tone for the Cowboys with his aggressive play. The sophomore entered Saturday with the third most points per game in the country (24.7).
While Evans led all scorers with 16 points, Turgeon said the Terps forced him into taking tough shots, something the sixth-year coach said was a “huge factor” in Maryland’s 71-70 comeback victory over Oklahoma State at Xfinity Center.
“That team had a point guard that can control the whole game,” Turgeon said. “We were still able to figure out a way to win.”
Guard Anthony Cowan, who Turgeon said is one of the Terps’ best defenders, primarily guarded Evans. It marked the second straight game Cowan went up against one of the opponent’s best players. In Maryland’s 73-59 loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 29, he struggled to contain forward Jamel Artis, who finished with 22 points on 8 of 15 shooting.
That experience taught Cowan how important the scouting report is. While Artis is a bigger player who likes to get to the rim, Cowan said, Evans is quick and a “knockdown shooter.” Cowan, who Turgeon said is probably the fastest player in the Big Ten, knew he needed to defend better.
“I’m just trying to use my quickness against him,” Cowan said Friday. “Make sure I stay attached with him. I can’t lose him.”
Trimble, who leads Maryland with 19.3 points per game, and guard Jaylen Brantley also defended Evans at times. But having Cowan guard the foe’s best player, Trimble said, took the pressure off.
Evans got off to a solid start, scoring four points in the opening seven minutes. He also drained a jump shot to halt Maryland’s 9-0 run in the first half.
But Turgeon said defense was the focal point of Maryland’s comeback in the second half, particularly on Evans, who scored just six points in the frame. Whenever Evans found an opening, the Terps provided help defense and shifted a big man on him when he neared the basket. The Cowboys set high ball screens for Evans throughout the game, but in the second half, Maryland double-teamed Evans off those screens, not allowing him to take off toward the basket.
“We just tried to contain him as much as we could,” Brantley said. “He’s one of the best point guards in the country. All five of us guarding him was the key to the game.”
Maryland’s pesky defense wasn’t enough to keep Evans out of the lane with 21 seconds remaining. With Trimble defending him, Evans drove to his right and hit a layup that gave Oklahoma State a 70-69 lead. After Trimble made two free throws to give the Terps the edge with nine seconds to play, Evans had a chance to put his team ahead again.
With Cowan guarding him, Evans sprinted down the floor, ignored a ball screen, drove right again and put up a floater. His shot clanked off the rim. Though he drained his second attempt after grabbing the rebound, the 6-foot, 175-pound playmaker’s shot came after the buzzer.
“He’s a tremendous player,” forward Damonte Dodd said. “We tried our hardest to try to limit him to his shots. He made plays point guards in the NBA make.”