COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The early-season questions surrounding Kevin Huerter’s 3-point stroke have all but subsided. Ever since the New Year, when the Terps hosted Nebraska, the 6-foot-7, 190-pound New York native has been dialed in, knocking down a dozen deep jumpers in 22 attempts.
And these aren’t the “garden-variety” 3s, either. Huerter’s been hitting in the clutch, either when Maryland’s been trying to maintain momentum (see: barrage of 3s to help UMD to a 13-point lead against Nebraska); fend off a late surge (see: late triple against Michigan Jan. 7); or to seal a hard-fought victory (see: crunch-time trey against Indiana Jan. 10).
Most recently, against the Hoosiers at Xfinity Jan. 10, Huerter’s shot, in addition to his defense, rebounding and passing, were the difference between the Terps escaping with a win and falling late.
Locked in a tight battle throughout, in which no side had greater than a six-point advantage, IU’s Juwan Morgan broke a 68-68 tie by canning two free throws with just two minutes left in regulation. But the Terps quickly answered, with Huerter taking a pass from fellow freshman Anthony Cowan and stroking a 3 to give UMD the lead back.
“That was a similar play to what we ran against Nebraska. I came off the screen, the [defender] tried to go over, it was a perfect pass, I caught it, and there was no hesitation,” Huerter said. “At halftime, everyone was telling me to keep looking for my shot, and at the end of the game it came open.”
Huerter was far from finished with his late-game heroics.
On the ensuing possession, IU’s OG Anunoboy misfired on a mid-range jumper, but the Hoosiers’ lengthy frontcourt looked to be positioned for the put-back. Huerter, however, fought for inside position and somehow snared the rebound among the trees.
The Maryland guard proceeded to come out of the pack and toss up a Favre-esque prayer down court. Cowan, running in transition, grabbed the deep lob in stride and converted an easy layup at the other end.
“I always got yelled at in high school for throwing long passes,” said Huerter, who joked his baseball background in high school may have aided him in throwing the long pass. “I like just sitting back and throwing it up. I tell Anthony all the time, ‘If I get a rebound, take off.' He's the fastest guy on the court. I got the rebound, looked up, and there was no one around him and I let him go get it.”
Said Cowan: “Kevin made a great defensive play, and found me up top. Kevin’s a great defensive player and I knew he was going to get the rebound. I just wanted to make sure I leaked out and make the layup.”
Cowan did his job, and suddenly the Terps were up three and would hold on for the 75-72 victory.
Following the game, the Terps couldn’t decide which was the more significant play: Huerter’s 3-ball, the rebound or the baseball pass. Personally, Huerter chose the long toss to Cowan. But head coach Mark Turgeon said the entire sequence, collectively, put the proverbial nail in the coffin.
“That was big time, Kevin with the rebound and the pass,” Turgeon said. “Kevin was down there guarding OG [Anunoboy] and [Juwan] Morgan, giving up weight and battling. But Kevin played point guard in high school. Kevin's got point guard skills. He doesn't handle as much for us because of the other two point guards [Melo Trimble and Cowan]. What a pass that was, huh? I was just hoping Anthony could get to the rim as fast as he could.”
Trimble practically agreed with his coach.
“That was the [dagger] right there,” said Trimble, who led UMD with 18 points. “It really changed the game for us. Kevin hit the big 3 -- it was a deep 3 at that -- and of course he’s gets the key [rebound], and [Cowan] got the layup off [Huerter’s pass]… Kevin’s been big.”
After the game, Indiana head coach Tom Crean heaped praise on Huerter too. Crean said other than Trimble, he made sure his team keyed in on Huerter. And, for the first 20 minutes, the Hoosiers did their jobs, limiting the sharpshooter to just two points.
But after adjusting at halftime, Huerter found some open looks and caught fire. He ended up nailing three second-half triples en route to 11 points.
“[Huerter was] 1B on that scouting report, and that doesn't take anything away from the rest of the guys,” Crean said. “They've got a great team, they really do. They've got a lot of talent. Huerter is a guy that does a lot of the non-obvious stuff. He's a great help defender, he moves without the ball, he can really pass. He made us pay.”