ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On two possessions late in the second half at Crisler Center on Saturday, the Maryland men’s basketball team found a great look at the rim while chasing Michigan’s two-possession lead.
But guard Anthony Cowan blew his lay-up, and forward Jalen Smith couldn’t figure out how to finish Cowan’s lob.
So, the Terps were down eight a couple of minutes later, when three of their best shooters had wide-open 3-pointers on the same possession. All three missed, and a dunk from Wolverines center Jon Teske pushed the home team’s lead back to 10 for the first time in 12 minutes, all but ending Maryland’s comeback hopes.
The No. 24 Terps couldn’t overcome an atrocious start against No. 6 Michigan, never coming closer than three points in the second half of a 65-52 loss that extends their losing streak against ranked teams on the road to 19 games under coach Mark Turgeon.
“The obvious is we built too big of a hole,” Turgeon said. “Against a great team, you can’t do that. And we did it.”
In many ways, it was a miracle Maryland (29-7, 10-5 Big Ten) was in the game at all during the second half.
Though Michigan had appeared more mortal in recent weeks than it did early in the season, the Wolverines still owned the No. 6 ranking and a perfect 15-0 mark at home, while Turgeon — as the legend goes — hadn’t beaten a ranked team on the road since coming to Maryland in 2011.
And barely five minutes after the opening tip, the Wolverines had a 14-2 lead. Coach John Beilein’s squad entered the game with a tempo that ranked 302nd out of 353 Division I teams but scored 10 fast-break points in the first 13 minutes Saturday.
“We weren’t sprinting back,” Cowan said.
The Terps shot 29 percent from the field in the first half, committing 13 turnovers and making just seven field goals. But back-to-back 3-pointers — the team’s only triples of the half — from guard Aaron Wiggins with about four minutes left pulled the Terps within nine, where the deficit improbably remained entering halftime.
“We were playing at a clip … that was going to be incredible,” Beilein said. “We were getting stops and we were running. We forced 13 turnovers in the first half.”
After Michigan’s third-ranked defense entirely stymied the Terps before halftime, the visitors shored up their turnover problems — committing three after the stoppage — and made their first six shots via two 3-pointers from Cowan and eight points from forward Bruno Fernando, who was scoreless entering the locker room.
That made it a game again, pulling the Terps within six with 14:26 remaining. The deficit hovered around there until the 10:21 mark, when guard Serrel Smith hit a 3-pointer to pull Maryland within three points.
“It wasn’t a matter of [anything] schematically we changed,” Beilein said. “It’s that they stopped turning it over.”
After Wolverines center Teske missed his fifth triple of the night on the other end, Cowan found himself open in the corner with a chance to tie. The shot rimmed out, the first of a handful of missed opportunities for the slumping junior, each of which Michigan seemed to seize upon.
Following Cowan’s miss, guard Jordan Poole returned to pushing the pace and scored a lay-up, and guard Zavier Simpson nailed a 3-pointer to go up eight points and force a timeout from Turgeon.
“They played really well,” Wiggins said. “Even with the comeback we had in the second half, they were able to respond.”
Cowan’s missed lay-in led to a triple from forward Ignas Brazdeikis, and Teske dunks followed both Smith’s miss and Maryland’s three consecutive misfired 3-pointers.
“I was just disappointed, after Anthony missed the lay-up, that we didn’t run back on defense,” Turgeon said. “To me, that’s the game. … We’ve played through mistakes all year, and through things all year, and today it looked like we didn’t do that at times.”
And after missing his first six longballs, with 3:12 to play Teske finally connected with a dagger from deep that put the Wolverines up 11 points.
The Terps had held on as long as they could, but they had taken too long to begin to crack Michigan’s defense and couldn’t keep the Wolverines from scoring when it mattered most, suffering a much more routine loss in Ann Arbor than last year’s infamous inbound-play ending.
“They got up and played,” Cowan said. “We didn’t.”