STILLWATER, Okla. — Maryland sought added validation to its strong start Sunday.
The No. 17 Terrapins found it in an unlikely place — on the road — pulling past Oklahoma State 73-64 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
During coach Mark Turgeon’s first three seasons in College Park, Maryland had gone just 8-25 on the road, a sore spot for Turgeon to this point. Sunday’s visit to OSU represented this team’s first true road trip of the season, as well as an opportunity to tack on to a building resume.
The Terrapins managed both, using a surge out of the halftime break to forge a big lead that held up.
“We haven’t been the best road team since I came to Maryland,” Turgeon said. “It’s been really disappointing. And we continue to talk about that.”It’s still early, but I feel like we’ve got two good road wins, even though Iowa State was in Kansas City.”
Forwards Jake Layman and Jared Nickens fueled a 15-3 spurt to start the second half, with the duo combining for 13 during the spurt and 32 overall. The Terrapins had to hold off a late Cowboys rally, as Oklahoma State pulled within five, 69-64 in the final minute, but finished it off to win their fourth straight and improve to 11-1 overall.
“I think this is big for our confidence, especially with Big Ten play right around the corner,” said freshman guard Jared Nickens. “We needed this win going into the Christmas break, for something to fall back on.”
And for something to grow on.
Entering the game at No. 17 in the Associated Press poll, the Terrapins owned their highest ranking since 2007. Still, some national analysts seemed to be taking a wait-and-see approach to a squad that had been overhauled in the offseason and enjoyed only limited success in recent seasons.
Sunday played like a statement, with Maryland — still without injured leading scorer Dez Wells — controlling a Cowboys team with a history of dominating nonconference foes at home.
Layman finished with a game-high 21 points, pouring in 16 in the second half. And Nickens (11 points), guard Melo Trimble (15 points) and guard Dion Wiley (seven points), a trio of talented freshmen, combined for 33 points.
After Sunday, trips to Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and the other Big Ten spots shouldn’t seem so rugged.
“This win was great for us as a team,” Layman said, “to get this first road win in a tough environment. These young guys will learn from it.”
The Terrapins led 32-27 at halftime in a tight defensive matchup.
An 18-4 run late in the half sent Maryland surging to a 32-22 edge — the biggest lead by either team through the first 20 minutes. But the Cowboys scored the final two buckets of the half on a dunk by center Michael Cobbins and a 3-pointer by guard Phil Forte to close the gap.
But Maryland quickly worked another run to open the second half, getting buckets on their first six possessions, including two 3s from Nickens and one from Layman.
Soon the lead was 47-30.
“I told the guys,” Turgeon said, “‘This game doesn’t have to be close if you don’t want it to be close. You decide. If we keep guarding and rebounding,’ which we didn’t rebound as well in the second half, ‘they’ll have a hard time guarding us.’
“There’s always a streak in us. We have too many good offensive players. Too many guys you have to guard.”
While the Cowboys rallied, the big opening to the half was too much to overcome.
“I don’t know what it was, I thought our energy was good in the locker room coming out,” Forte said. “I thought we were focused. We were only down five at halftime, so we were right in the game. And then we just came out flat.
“We made some mistakes. They got some easy baskets. And we dug ourselves a big hole and were down (17) before you know it.”
Cowboys forward Le’Bryan Nash led all scorers with 11 in the half, and he finished with a team-high 17.
Maryland returns to action Saturday at home against Oakland.
Oklahoma State next faces Missouri in a neutral site game in Kansas
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