COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In a matchup between two struggling Big Ten teams, Anthony Cowan Jr. and Kevin Huerter provided Maryland with a tougher-than-expected victory.
Cowan scored 23 points, Huerter added 19 and the Terrapins squeezed past Wisconsin 68-63 on Sunday to stretch the Badgers’ losing streak to five games.
The defeat ended Wisconsin’s Big Ten-record run of 17 straight winning seasons in conference play. Using a starting lineup that featured three freshmen and two juniors, the rebuilding Badgers (10-15, 3-9) rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit before Huerter and Cowan took over.
They combined to score 23 of Maryland’s final 28 points, including the last 10.
“They just kind of took turns,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “They kind of fed off each other. We kept changing it up, calling plays for one and the other.”
Huerter’s driving layup with 1:25 left put the Terrapins up 62-60. After a Wisconsin misfire on the other end, Huerter bounced a runner off the glass.
Brad Davison answered with a 3-pointer for the Badgers with 10.6 seconds left.
Cowan then made two foul shots for a three-point cushion, and Maryland’s Dion Wiley sealed the victory by swatting away a layup try by Davison.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard lamented the shot by Davison, a freshman who seemingly lost sight of the situation.
“That wasn’t the play. Obviously, we needed a 3,” Gard said.
Davison said: “We weren’t really on the same page by the time I got into the lane and there wasn’t a whole lot of time for me to do anything.”
Really though, the play of Maryland’s solid backcourt duo turned out to be the difference.
“I knew coming in that Cowan and Huerter were going to be a handful,” Gard said. “In tight moments, they’re going to hit big shots.”
The Terrapins (16-9, 5-7) ended a three-game skid and won for only the second time in seven games.
“We weren’t great today, but I think we figured it out at the end,” Turgeon said.
Ethan Happ scored 18 points for Wisconsin, which has lost eight of nine. The Badgers are 1-8 on road, including 1-6 in the conference.
After being outscored 18-1 by Northwestern at the outset of Thursday night’s game, Wisconsin flipped the script and bolted to an 18-11 lead.
Maryland went ahead with an 11-3 run, then scored the final 11 points of the first half to go up 33-23.
The advantage stood up until Davison and Nate Reuvers each scored four points in an 11-2 spree that put Wisconsin on top with 9:42 remaining.
Maryland won despite 9-for-22 shooting in the second half.
“When you go on a losing streak it’s kind of hard to win your first game,” Cowan said. “So it was important for us to pull this one out.”
Wisconsin: Barring a stunning turnaround, the Badgers will need to win the Big Ten Tournament to get an NCAA bid. Gard can only hope this youthful squad will benefit in 2018-19 from the experience gained this season.
“There have been things that we’ve improved in areas,” he said, “but obviously to play against better teams, you’ve got to be more consistent.”
Maryland: The Terrapins’ tepid performance against a young, struggling team did little to convince anyone that they have the ability to finish this disappointing season with a flourish.
The Terrapins were without 7-foot-1 center Michal Cekovsky, who was in a walking boot after bruising his left heel in practice last week. Maryland lost Justin Jackson (shoulder) and Ivan Bender (knee) in December.
“Our guys are so resilient,” Turgeon said. “What they’re doing is amazing while we’re down three starters. We keep battling and we haven’t embarrassed ourselves in a long time.”
Wisconsin: On the road Thursday at Illinois, a team the Badgers have defeated 12 straight times.
Maryland: At Penn State on Wednesday. The Terps beat the Nittany Lions 75-69 on Jan. 2.