COLLEGE PARK, M.D. – The Gophers have struggled without a true point guard all season, but Friday it was most evident facing one of the best floor leaders in the Big Ten.
Maryland’s Anthony Cowan Jr. was definitely the difference the last time he played Minnesota, and it was much of the same Friday with 12 of his 21 points in the first half of a 69-60 Terrapins victory.
Cowan entered as only the sixth player in program history with at least 1,300 points and 400 assists in his career, joining John Lucas, Greivis Vasquez and Melo Trimble.
“Cowan has been a terrific player in this league for a long time,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said.
In his previous game, the 6-foot junior was held to only 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting in Sunday’s home loss to Michigan. But the Gophers couldn’t stop him off the dribble Friday.
In Maryland’s 82-67 victory at Williams Arena on Jan. 8, Cowan scored 23 of his 27 points in the second half. Friday, he scored seven of his team’s first nine points to set the tone early.
Meanwhile, Gophers junior Amir Coffey, who was coming off back-to-back 30-point games, struggled to get the offense running smoothly. Coffey was scoreless until late in the first half, while the Gophers were out of rhythm as well. They shot 27 percent and committed eight turnovers.
Coffey has been the starting point guard all season. At 6-8, he’s a tough matchup as a scorer, but senior Dupree McBrayer often takes over primary ball-handling duties.
“With me and Amir, there’s no set point guard,” McBrayer said. “Whoever is closest to the ball will bring it up.”
Coffey, McBrayer and sophomore Isaiah Washington all averaged three assists per game to lead the Gophers, but Washington didn’t play for the third consecutive game Friday.
Friday’s game featured the two rebounding champions in the Big Ten this season. Terrapins sophomore Bruno Fernando entered the night tops with 11.4 rebounds per game in conference play. Gophers senior Jordan Murphy, who also won the Big Ten rebounding crown last year, was the league leader overall at 11.7.