In recent weeks, Maryland men's basketball guard Anthony Cowan dominated crunch-time possessions in tight games while the team's second-leading scorer, guard Kevin Huerter, took a back seat.
A couple of times, coach Mark Turgeon called plays for Huerter before Cowan shot — and missed — instead. Before last week's game at Purdue, Turgeon said his team had to "do a better job of getting Kevin the ball late in the game."
In Sunday's 68-63 win over Wisconsin, the duo found the proper balance to put away a close game, combining for 17 of the team's last 19 points to move the team to 3-5 in games decided by five points or fewer.
"Someone said, 'Anthony and Kevin learned how to coexist,' and I don't think it's about coexisting," Huerter said. "We should both be able to get ours and set each other up as much as we can."
Trailing by two points with about six minutes left, Cowan drained a 3-pointer to give the Terps a 56-55 lead. Then, after a pair of forward Bruno Fernando free throws — Maryland's only two points not scored by Cowan or Huerter in the final eight minutes — Cowan hit a midrange jumper that put Maryland up five points, the biggest lead by either team in more than 10 minutes.
After Wisconsin erased the lead Cowan created, it was Huerter's turn to take control. The sophomore made back-to-back tough finishes around the basket that put Maryland up 64-60 with just 26 seconds left.
Cowan sealed the game with four free throws.
"They just fed off of each other and called plays for one another," Turgeon said. "Kevin made some big-time plays, and Anthony's three behind the ball screen was huge."
Despite both shooting an uncharacteristic 1-for-5 from 3-point range, Cowan finished with 23 points on 14 shots, while Huerter scored 19 on his 12 attempts.
Turgeon said the balance was also the result of adjusting to Wisconsin's defense. The Terps were more confident in Huerter attacking Badgers forward Aaron Moesch than going against guard Khalil Iverson, for example. But the Terps' coaching staff typically doesn't give specific instructions to the team during big moments, Turgeon said.
"We let them do their thing," Turgeon said. "We're just moving out bodies to make space for those guys. … From about the 12-minute mark onwards we just talked about setting more ball screens in our motion. Anthony and Kevin were terrific with it."
The result of the apparent growth of the sophomores was a close win in a season filled with late-game disappointments, especially during the team's three-game losing streak entering Sunday.
The greatest margin of defeat during that stretch was an eight-point loss on the road at No. 3 Purdue.
"Obviously we've been in a lot of close games, so it was important for us to pull this one out," Cowan said. "When you go on a losing streak it is kind of hard to win your first game."
Without former guard Melo Trimble to take the reins late in games, Cowan has piloted the Terps this season. In some previous games, that's resulted in disaster. But against the Badgers, his command of when to attack and when to dish to Huerter gave the Terps a much-needed win.
"It was a good balance of us," Huerter said. "For us, who consider ourselves leaders on this team and other guys on our team that look to make plays, you have to make those if you want to win games."