COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Jalen Smith had 14 points and 15 rebounds, Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 17 and No. 9 Maryland used a strong second half to beat Rutgers 56-51 Tuesday night for its fifth straight victory.
The Terrapins trailed 25-20 at halftime after shooting 24%. With Smith leading the way, Maryland (18-4, 8-3 Big Ten) emerged from the break with a 14-4 run and held off a late surge by the Scarlet Knights to improve to 13-0 at home.
Three free throws by Cowan put the Terrapins up 52-49 with 2:12 to go. Myles Johnson answered with a dunk, but the Scarlet Knights did not score again.
Smith, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, notched his fifth straight double-double and blocked six shots. He had a 3-pointer and a three-point play in succession to put the Terps ahead 34-29, and the margin swelled to eight points before Rutgers (16-7, 7-5) rallied.
Neither team shot well in a defensive struggle that featured several lengthy scoreless stretches by both teams. Akwasi Yeboah scored 13 for the Scarlet Knights, who shot 34% and went 3 for 17 from beyond the arc.
Rutgers is 0-8 against Maryland since both teams joined the Big Ten in 2014.
Maryland went 7 for 29 from the floor in the first half, made only two baskets over the final 12 minutes and fell behind at the break despite holding Rutgers without a point over the final 5 minutes.
Smith had eight points and five rebounds in the opening seven minutes to stake the Terrapins to a 14-6 lead. But Maryland missed 14 of its next 16 shots and went scoreless for more than 7 1/2 minutes while Rutgers went on a 19-4 run that included a trio of 3-pointers by Yeboah.
Cowan finally ended the drought with two free throws.
Rutgers: Thanks to a rugged, relentless defense, these are not the same Scarlet Knights who stumbled through one season after another in the Big Ten. Even in defeat, Rutgers showed it’s worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as Maryland, Michigan State and all the other contenders.
Maryland: It’s never easy for the Terrapins, even at home. This narrow victory shouldn’t harm their place in the Top 10, as long as they back it up with a strong performance at Illinois on Friday night.
Rutgers hosts Northwestern on Sunday night. The Wildcats lead the series 10-3 but Rutgers has won two of the last three.
Maryland’s game at Illinois on Friday night is a rematch of a Dec. 7 contest won by the Terps 59-58.
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