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How Locksley proved he's the coach Maryland needs right now, despite loss

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How Locksley proved he's the coach Maryland needs right now, despite loss

BALTIMORE -- Maryland interim head coach Mike Locksley has been brought into a difficult situation. He has been given a second chance to lead a program, but it comes in the middle of the season during which his boss was fired -- a firing that he feels was, at least in part, a product of his shortcomings as the team’s offensive coordinator.

His players understood that and it was reflected in the effort that Maryland showed in his first game as the team's new leader, despite its 31-30 loss to Penn State on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

“[Locksley] tried to make sure that [winning a game on his behalf] wasn’t our mindset, but I think it’s clear that’s what we all were trying to do because he’s took over such a tough situation,” senior running back Brandon Ross said.

“He’s tried to make it as much of a relaxed environment as he possibly could and guys definitely fed off it. It actually motivated guys to want to play harder and do better.”

It wasn’t a lack of effort that hurt Maryland on Saturday. This was far from the blowouts we’ve seen at other points this season, like against West Virginia and in the second half against Bowling Green when there seemed to be a lack of will or ability to compete.

Maryland lost to Penn State because of football errors, specifically its five turnovers and and its inability to keep Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg from hitting home runs on deep shots down the field.

MORE TERPS: 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARYLAND'S LOSS TO PENN STATE

“A lot of guys, we went out and played our butts off and unfortunately the score is what it was,” junior linebacker Yannick Ngakoue said. “It was a lot of disappointment, but we’re just going to have to come back tomorrow, re-evaluate the film, and just fix stuff.”

It is unclear what the longterm future of this program will be and where exactly Mike Locksley fits into those plans.

Saturday’s game against Penn State was one of three reasonably winnable games remaining on Maryland’s schedule, along with end-of-season dates against Indiana and Rutgers.

A win over Penn State would have been the best possible start for Locksley as he tries to build a running resume in his unofficial campaign to become the program’s full-time head coach.

It remains to be seen whether he is the coach of the future, but he is the coach that Maryland needs right now -- right now to finish what has amounted to a new six-game season.

He is a uniter of young men who were put through the grinder of a midseason coaching change and a person who helped them to come to terms with their feelings about it in the wake of the decision.

“We’re way beyond moral victories,” Locksley said after Saturday's loss. “What I did tell them is if you can come in that locker room after a game like today and look yourself in the mirror and know that you did everything you could do to possibly win that ball game, then the scoreboard won’t define you.

“We’ve got some guys that are in there pretty hurt because this was a game that we really wanted. We didn’t do the things to take it and that’s where we’ve got to become that type of team.

“We’re way too mature of a team to buy into moral victories and today we didn’t take care of our business.”

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A huge second half carries the Maryland Terps over Minnesota

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A huge second half carries the Maryland Terps over Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS -- Anthony Cowan Jr. matched his career high with 27 points and freshman Jalen Smith pitched in a season-best 21 points and eight rebounds, leading Maryland's rally past Minnesota on Tuesday night for a 82-67 victory fueled by sharp free-throw shooting.

Bruno Fernando added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (13-3, 4-1 Big Ten), who went 24 for 27 from the foul line. Cowan, who also had six rebounds and five assists, made all 10 of his free throws as Maryland finished the game with a 21-6 run over the final seven minutes.

Amir Coffey had 16 points and five assists for the Gophers (12-3, 2-2), who clanked their way to defeat by missing 14 of their 23 foul shots. Coffey was 3 for 8, and senior power forward Jordan Murphy was 3 for 9.

The Gophers had a lead as big as 44-36 early in the second half and were still in front as late as the 13-minute mark, but Cowan, the junior point guard on one of the most inexperienced teams in the country, steered the Terrapins to a steely win that will look good in front of the NCAA Tournament selection committee in two months.

Smith zipped a cross-court pass out of a double team down low to find Eric Ayala for a 3-pointer and a 67-61 lead for Maryland. About three minutes later, Smith put the seal on the victory with a driving dunk for a 75-67 advantage.

With a win over Nebraska and a victory at Rutgers, Maryland started the new year and the resumption of conference play strong. This trip to Minnesota's cozy Williams Arena was a stiffer test, giving the young Terrapins the opportunity to win consecutive road games for the first time in nearly two years when they posted victories at Minnesota and Ohio State on Jan. 28 and 31, 2017. They went 2-8 on the home courts of their opponents last season.

Gabe Kalscheur scored 13 points, Daniel Oturu had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Dupree McBrayer added 10 points for the Gophers.

The Gophers entered the game with the second-worst 3-point shooting percentage in the Big Ten, but the freshman Kalscheur, who was just 6 for 34 from behind the arc over the last seven games, came through with three makes in five tries from long range. The most clutch of those was at the 7:50 mark, cutting Maryland's lead to 62-61, but the Terrapins snapped right back with seven straight points to retake control.

With the imposing length inside of Smith and Fernando, their 6-foot-10 duo, the Gophers needed to establish a rhythm with their outside shooting, but nearly every time the Terrapins employed their 2-3 zone defense they successfully kept the home team out of sync.

Coffey ran down a loose ball late in the first half to feed McBrayer for a banked-in 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 1:50 mark, and Coffey scored his first point with a free throw on the next possession. His turnaround with 32 seconds left before the break gave the Gophers a 40-34 advantage, and the junior in his first season as the point guard kept up his aggression to the basket in the second half.

Coffey's feed to Eric Curry for a short jumper gave Minnesota a 54-47 lead, but Cowan led another charge by the Terrapins after that, and this time the Gophers didn't come up with a counter.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Six consecutive Big Ten teams were just below the cut in voting for the latest edition of the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska and Maryland finished 27th through 32nd to give the conference 10 teams with votes from the 64-person panel this week.

BIG PICTURE

Maryland: After missing the NCAA Tournament last season after a three-year streak of making it, coach Mark Turgeon's team has a promising nucleus that can only grow in confidence from this win.

Minnesota: Coming off a rousing and rare road win at rival Wisconsin last week, the Gophers bricked away their chance to build some momentum going into the heart of the Big Ten schedule.

UP NEXT

Maryland: Returns home to play 22nd-ranked Indiana on Friday night.

Minnesota: Stays home to face Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.

MORE NCAA NEWS:

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Jalen Smith sinks game-winner to propel Maryland past No. 24 Nebraska

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Jalen Smith sinks game-winner to propel Maryland past No. 24 Nebraska

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Nebraska's final attempt to score had gone awry, and as the buzzer sounded, Maryland's players rushed to the middle of the court to celebrate the team's most significant victory of the season.

"We beat a really good team. We need that for a confidence builder," coach Mark Turgeon said after the Terrapins used a late push to get past No. 24 Nebraska 74-72 on Wednesday night.

Bruno Fernando had 18 points and 17 rebounds, Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 19 points and freshman Jalen Smith accounted for Maryland's final seven points to finish with 15, including a tiebreaking layup with 3.8 seconds left.

The Terrapins (11-3, 2-1 Big Ten) had previously lost to Virginia, at Purdue and at home against Seton Hall. Turgeon rarely misses a chance to point out that this is "fifth-youngest team in the country," but he also knows that isn't an excuse for losing.

"Our guys are doing great," Turgeon said. "We're getting better. I'm just glad we won."

Maryland trailed 71-70 before Smith made a follow-shot off a 3-point try by Cowan with 28 seconds left. After James Palmer converted 1 of 2 free throws for Nebraska, Smith drove the middle of the lane for his decisive layup.

Following a timeout, Nebraska (11-3, 1-2) tried to work the ball up the court before Ricky Lindo Jr. knocked away a pass under the basket to seal it.

"It was extremely encouraging for all of us, just to see how far we've come," Fernando said. "Wins like that mean a lot to us, to the coaches, to everybody at the whole University of Maryland."

Palmer scored 26 points and Glynn Watson Jr. added 12 for the Cornhuskers, whose four-game winning streak ended.

Nebraska coach Tim Miles lamented his team's poor free-throw shooting (15 for 23), lack of rebounding (Maryland dominated 38-28) and a defense that allowed the Terps to hit eight 3-pointers.

"You can't give them eight 3s and not rebound. Pick one that you want to be awful at," Miles said.

It was a tough loss to take, as was an earlier seven-point setback at Minnesota, but Miles accepted it as life in the Big Ten.

"You've got to look at it from a global, big-picture perspective and say, 'This is just the way it's going be,'" he said.

The final minutes went back and forth, with neither team able to take charge.

After a three-point play by Smith put Maryland ahead 70-67 with 2:42 left, Watson made two free throws and Palmer turned a steal into a dunk for a 71-70 lead with 2:13 remaining.

That would be the last time the Huskers were in front.

"You hear the celebration in the opposing locker room, and it's disappointing because you probably played well enough to win but you just didn't do enough little things," Miles said.