After the Cowboys had made a late 5-0 run to get the Maryland lead back to five at the half, the Terps started the second half with a 13-3 run that the Cowboys could not overcome. It was similar to the start of the game with the names (Jared) Nickens and (Jake) Layman keyed the Terps surge.
Nickens opened the half on the wing hitting a closely guarded three-pointer. Off a turnover on the next trip down the floor Layman, who finished with 21 points, hit the acrobatic lay up. After Cowboys point guard Anthony Hickey Jr., countered with a three, then Layman hit another trey and Nickens another for a 45-30 advantage. Nickens had 11 points, and primary ball handler Melo Trimble had 15 points and four assists.
Somewhat symbolically, LeBryan Nash stumbled a couple of times the next possession trying to get to the basket and Maryland was off to play offense again.
Knowing how critical this second to last non-conference game was for the Cowboys, head coach Travis Ford worked it hard from the bench. Ford worked his team, worked the officials, and got in a full walk-fit workout throughout but in the end it couldn't stop Maryland from winning 73-64 to go to 11-1 on the season. OSU drops to 9-2.
The most promising it got down the stretch was at the 4:50 mark when Hickey hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to narrow the score to 60-51. But nine was as close as it would get for the Pokes as Hickey did it again with a trey at the two-minute mark.
Ford was unhappy because he felt his team waited too long to get the next level urgency needed, but he was glad he saw it. His team will need to play with that ferocity more and more often. From that point a couple of forced turnovers and Maryland struggling closing it out made it close, as close as five but time was on the Terps side.
How did Oklahoma State struggle in this premier home court game of the non-conference season? Let me count the ways.
** Rebounding, where Maryland won 38-32.
** Turnovers, where the Cowboys had a two-miscue advantage but against the taller Maryland team they needed more.
** And free throw shooting, where OSU was a paltry 4-of-9 for 44.4 percent.
As advertised, Maryland was the better team and the Terrapins will get even better when they get senior wing Dez Wells back from the wrist injury he suffered in the win over Iowa State.
Maryland got out to a solid start as Nickens and Layman used the baseline corner for a pair of three-pointers and the Terps led 6-2. However, the first half had some ugly stretches of offensive basketball as Maryland twice had possessions where they had three shots at the rim and couldn't net anything.
There was one OSU possession where the ball got loose and pin-balled around the floor before it finally resulted in a turnover, and the Terps basketball which they used for a bucket on the other end and a 13-7 lead, their biggest in the first half.
It was the Cowboys leading scorer, LeBryan Nash, that spurted the Pokes to their first lead. Just shy of the midway mark in the first half Phil Forte spotted Nash, who went up and got the slam and drew a foul to pull the Cowboys within two. The next possession Nash hit a jumper just off the paint to tie the game at 13-13.
The lead came a minute later when Christian Sager spotted Nash open on the wing and he buried the three for a 16-13 lead. Nash finished the game with 17 points after having 11 at the half.
Hickey, who kicked it in gear the second half, finished with 16 points. Forte, who got a lot of defensive attention, had 13 points.
The Cowboys advantage was short lived and ended when Evan Smotrycz hit a three from the corner and then a lay up off a Cowboys miss made it 19-18.
The last three minutes were strong for Maryland as their first half scoring leader, Melo Trimble, scored on a drive to the basket and drew the foul to make it 24-20 with the old-fashioned three-point play. Just seconds later Trimble got a loose ball and found Dion Wiley with the pass, and Wiley popped a three-pointer to run the advantage to 27-20. With a minute to go Wiley nailed another three-pointer and it was 32-22.
A Cobbins slam and a Forte three, his second of the half, closed the halftime score to 32-27.
The Cowboys celebrate Christmas and then get back together for a trip to Kansas City and the not so neutral game with Missouri. Oklahoma State opens Big 12 play at home at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 3, with Kansas State.