By Harry Allison
Temple didn’t pull off an upset on this Thanksgiving day in Orlando, but No. 5-ranked Maryland was lucky to have gotten out alive.
Anthony Cowan Jr. carried Maryland to a 76-69 win, scoring a career-high 30 points.
Temple (4-1), coming off a road win at USC, is not an under-the-radar team like some of the ones that have upset other high-ranked programs. But Maryland is the only ranked team in the tournament field and hopes to string together three wins for a chance to climb higher in the rankings after both No. 1 Duke and No. 3 Michigan State lost this week.
Temple came in shooting 29.6 percent from deep, hitting about seven three-pointers per game. The Owl made three of their first four attempts before eventually cooling off. They still finished with 11 made threes on 31 attempts. Senior Alani Moore II hit six of those threes, finishing with 22 points.
The Terps (6-0) hit three straight shots from deep late in the second half — from sophomore Jalen Smith, then Cowan and sophomore Eric Ayala — to grab and secure the lead. Ayala’s three with just over a minute to go gave Maryland a six-point lead, the first time either team had led by more than four since the 12:29 mark.
Behind Cowan, Smith scored 12 points with nine rebounds. Ayala, his fellow sophomore, added 13 points.
Six preseason top-10 teams have already lost, but Maryland narrowly avoided that fate in the Orlando Invitational opener.
The Terps forced four Temple turnovers during a four-minute stretch in the first half. Ayala hit a three and Cowan made a layup, both in transition and part of a 9-0 run that tied the game after a slow start had led to a hole as large as nine. But Temple responded, forcing Maryland back into a hole. Apart from the Terps’ 3-2 lead early in the game, Maryland didn’t lead until the 17:48 mark of the second half.
Aaron Wiggins, one of Maryland’s best shooters, didn’t officially take a shot until late in the first half. (He had one attempt early in the game but was fouled.) He hit a three to cut the Temple lead to four points with under a minute to go in the first half. The Terps could have trimmed that lead further with their final possession of the half, but Cowan turned the ball over and Moore made a layup on the buzzer, sending Maryland to the locker room with a 35-29 deficit.
Wiggins never found his rhythm, but Cowan managed to make up the difference and more for his teammates who struggled offensively. The senior from Washington delivered both early and down the stretch, keeping his team undefeated and avoiding the upset.