Nearly three minutes into the second half, guard Kevin Huerter hit a wide-open 3-pointer to give the Maryland men's basketball team its first lead of the game. After trailing Purdue by as many as 14 points earlier in the contest, redemption from the previous meeting between conference foes appeared imminent.
Last year, Maryland blew a 12-point advantage against the Boilermakers, leading Huerter to candidly discuss his desire to get revenge over Purdue before Friday. That result left a sour taste in his mouth he hadn't forgotten, he said.
So, a comeback victory Friday night would have held extra satisfaction, in addition to preventing the Terps' first losing streak of the year. Instead, Purdue erased Maryland's lead on the next possession after Huerter's triple and never relinquished it, rallying over the final 18 minutes to win, 80-75.
Already having suffered two defeats this past week, Friday's Big Ten opener was a game Maryland needed to have. But despite gaining momentary control, coach Mark Turgeon's players it let slip away.
Shortly after Huerter's long-range bucket, Boilermakers center Isaac Haas appeared to elbow Michal Cekovsky in the post. When Cekovsky was the one whistled for a foul, Turgeon went ballistic, wildly miming his perspective of the play from the sideline until he received a technical foul. Moments later, Cekovsky was called for his third foul of the game and Turgeon continued to jaw at the officials.
The technical foul sparked a 9-0 run that helped Purdue pull away.
Turgeon was right to be mad. Both calls on Cekovsky appeared questionable, with the senior not initiating much contact in either incident. But he should also be upset with how his players failed to capitalize on their chance to begin Big Ten play on a positive note.
Now, they'll travel to Illinois on Saturday needing a victory to avoid their worst start to a season in a decade.
Guard Anthony Cowan: A
Cowan's seven points in 10 seconds at the end of the game gave Maryland a chance to tie the game until guard Jared Nickens' 3-point try rimmed out.
But even before his late heroics, Cowan was one of the Terps' best players. He set a new career best with four 3-pointers, and he's now hit a trey in four straight games, showing off an improved stroke after working on his jumper throughout the summer. He also provided five assists and didn't turn the ball over.
Guard Kevin Huerter: A-
Huerter continued to excel at the offensive end after his best shooting display of the year Monday, when he scored 23 points against Syracuse. He made four 3-pointers Friday, including the one that put the Terps up early after halftime. His perimeter defense, however, was spotty in the early going and he gave the ball away three times.
Forward Bruno Fernando: B+
Fernando held his own against Purdue's talented frontcourt of Haas, Vincent Edwards and Matt Haarms by scored 12 points and snaring seven boards. It might not have been his most electric performance of the year, but he was still Maryland's most effective big man and avoided foul trouble until late in the second half.
Forward Justin Jackson: B-
Yet again, Jackson failed to deliver enough scoring, going 1-for-8 from the field for five points. His six offensive rebounds provided a lift, but he needs to do more as Big Ten play continues for the Terps to break out of their recent struggles.
Guard Darryl Morsell: D
Morsell was brought to College Park to attack the basket and play stellar defense. He was not brought to College Park to lead the Terps with 16 shot attempts in a key Big Ten contest. His 3-for-16 outing, which included an 0-for-4 mark from distance, killed the Terps down the stretch. And at the other end, Purdue guard Dakota Mathias poured in 20 points, with a couple of of his perimeter makes coming after he broke free from Morsell.