By: Eddie Hobbs
What looked like an easy win early on for the newly ranked No. 19 Maryland Terrapins (15-3, 6-1 B1G) turned into a nail-biting 64-60 finish at the Xfinity Center on a cold Monday night in College Park.
When Maryland faced then No. 22 Indiana last Friday, the Terps started out ice cold from the field, and trailed by more than 14 points in the first half before coming all the way back to defeat the Hoosiers.
That start felt like a distant memory, as Maryland came out with fiery defense and hot shooting against Wisconsin. Darryl Morsell and Eric Ayala got it going for the Terps early on, hitting one 3-pointer each.
Maryland jumped out to a 22-10 lead quickly behind its great on-ball defense, forcing Wisconsin into difficult shots. The Terps’ defense showed how festering it can be by only allowing the Badgers to make seven field goals in the first half, none of which were 3-pointers.
Wisconsin scored just 15 points at the half, the lowest point total the Terps have held an opponent to at the break all season— Maryland previously held Rutgers to 19 points just after the new year.
The second half would be totally different for Wisconsin, as the Badgers stormed back behind a career-high 18 points from Nate Reuvers.
The 6-foot-10 forward scored all of his 18 points in the second half, connecting on four 3-pointers in seven attempts. After Wisconsin went without a 3-pointer in the first half as a team, they started to get on a roll from deep.
“We were terrific defensively for about 25 to 28 minutes, then Wisconsin turned it on,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “Man were they good in the second half. We lost some shooters and made some mistakes.”
Coming into the game, the featured matchup was between the two big men, Ethan Happ and Bruno Fernando. The matchup didn’t go as advertised as both players would get into foul trouble in the second half, practically making themselves non-factors in the waning minutes.
Without Fernando on the court for Maryland, the offense then began to struggle mightily. The 6-foot-10 center only saw eight minutes of court time in the second half, and the Terps just couldn’t get much to go.
In the final 11:01 of regulation, 12 of Maryland’s final 15 points came from the free throw line, with one field goal make. But that one made shot would be the most important points of the night for a Terps’ team that was in desperate need of a pick-me-up.
Fernando was down on the block trying to back down Reuvers, but couldn’t get by the Badgers’ defender after multiple low-post moves. Fernando opted to pass the ball back out to reset the offense with about eight seconds left on the shot clock. Anthony Cowan gathered himself at the top of the key with D’mitrik Trice defending. Cowan slowly approach Trice before stopping quickly and throwing up a deep 3-point shot that found the bottom of the net to give Maryland a two-point lead with 45 seconds remaining.
“He’s just confident. That’s 100 percent of Anthony’s game,” Darryl Morsell said. “Whenever the ball’s in his hands at the end of the shot clock, the whole team believes in him.”
The shot gave Maryland the lead for good, and secured a sixth straight win for the Terps before traveling to Ohio State and Michigan State for what should be one of their toughest stretches of the season.
“The second half didn’t go how we wanted it to,” Morsell said. “But we found a way to win, and we just continue to find a way to win.”