COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Two years ago, in the midst of Melo Trimble’s emergence at Maryland, the then-freshman point guard was asked if he had any pregame rituals or superstitions that helped him prepare for game night. Trimble, straight-faced and serious, admitted he spent a good 20 minutes looking at himself in the mirror, making sure his hair was just right.
The response is still a rather hilarious talking point among local reporters, so after Trimble’s understudy, Anthony Cowan, went off yet again in his first Big Ten bout against Illinois Dec. 27, the freshman was jokingly asked how much time he spent on his hair.
“Oh, not 20 minutes,” laughed Cowan, who scored 12 points, dropped six assists and came away with three steals in 34 minutes during Maryland’s 84-59 demolition of the Illini. “But maybe about 10 minutes. I do spent some time (laughs).”
So there you have it -- proper pampering provides plenty of production.
Or something like that.
Whatever the source, Cowan has continued to shine alongside Trimble, and Dec. 27 he had arguably he most impressive all-around outing yet considering the stage and the opponent. Rather than cower in the face of his first Big Ten bout, and rather than back down against a foe that dwarfed the 6-footer by several inches at every spot on the floor, Cowan strutted onto the Xfinity Center floor like a seasoned veteran.
Before the first media timeout even hit, Cowan converted a transition layup for his first points, grabbed a rebound in traffic, and sliced through the lane to draw a foul (he canned both ensuing free throws).
He was just getting started.
Cowan, who held counterpart Jalen Coleman Lands to four points, proceeded to pick the opposing point guard’s pocket and feed Ivan Bender for a transition layup. The former St. John’s (Washington, D.C.) star then found guard Dion Wiley open on the wing for a triple before coming up with his second steal.
By the time Cowan knocked down a mid-range jumper to increase Maryland’s lead to 17-5, not even eight minutes had passed.
“I never want to take Anthony out, but I just do to get other guys in,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “He was terrific. I thought defensively the first couple possessions he was terrific. He got the ball in the paint, got his floater going, made great decisions. As much as he handles [the ball], it’s terrific. And he does it every day in practice – he’s just getting better every day.”
Cowan -- along with fellow freshmen Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson -- never let up, even after those first couple possessions Turgeon referred to. He hounded Coleman Lands and various Illini backcourt players throughout the night, while actively moving the ball; orchestrating the offense; and creating his own shot when he had to.
Cowan did miss both of his 3-point attempts, and he turned the ball over twice, but he made up for it by converting four times among the trees inside.
More importantly, however, Cowan controlled the tempo and guided the Terps’ attack, which hasn’t always been the case this season. He pushed the ball when the opportunity presented itself, dialed it back when he needed to, and effectively executed set half-court plays, highlighted by a couple nifty pick-and-rolls and backdoor screens.
"We just wanted to make sure we came out with a great start, and then in the second half we knew we just couldn't let down,” said Cowan, who is filling the box score to the tune of 10.7 points, four assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals this season. “We just kept defending, kept rebounding, kept pushing the ball and were able to get easy buckets at the other end."
Witness: With Maryland ahead by 23 points in the second half, Cowan came off a pick, deked a drive, and then floated a pass to a cutting L.G. Gill, who converted the alley-oop. It was Cowan’s fifth assist of the night and the third of the backdoor variety (all of which Gill benefitted from).
“I thought he had 10 assists, the way he was passing the ball,” Trimble said of Cowan. “He really set the tone for us.”
Cowan capped his night by grabbing an offensive rebound and kicking the ball out to Jaylen Brantley, who drained a triple to give the point guard his sixth and final dime. By that time, the sold-out Xfinity Center crown was already on its feet, chanting the freshman’s name.
“I’m looking forward to doing that every game, getting my teammates involved,” Cowan said. “I think that’s when we’re having our most fun.”
It’s a common mantra in College Park that the Terps go as Trimble goes, and that may still be the case (he scored a game-high 20 points against Illinois). But if Cowan can do his part to ignite the offense and set his teammates up, well, that would go a long way in alleviating one of the team’s major concerns entering conference play.