By Eddie Hobbs
In what was Maryland’s most complete win of the season, the Terps were able to rely on their shooting and defensive pressure to will their way to a 73-57 victory over Northwestern.
The Wildcats run a zone scheme that works well against opponents. Northwestern has held its last three opponents to under 60 points, and came in winning four out of its last five games, with its most impressive win coming against No. 20 Michigan.
The only ways to beat the zone include: crisp passing and red-hot shooting from deep, and Maryland was able to do both in the wire-to-wire win.
The Terps started the game blistering from the field opening with a 19-8 lead early in the first half. Kevin Huerter could not miss and scored nine points in the first four minutes, and finished the game with 22 points and five assists.
The defense put on by Maryland had Northwestern flustered throughout the game. The Terps had quick hands and guarded the pick-and-roll well.
“After the Penn State game coach [Turgeon] challenged us, he didn’t think we really guarded to our ability, and I don’t think we did either,” guard Dion Wiley said. “So, I think we just took on the challenge today.”
Northwestern’s senior guard Bryant McIntosh thrives through the pick-and-roll. It gives McIntosh some room to go into the paint and find an open shooter or put up a floater, but Maryland’s defense did not allow him to get anything going.
McIntosh finished with zero points on 0-of-5 shooting, and it was the first time he was held scoreless in his four-year college career.
“Ball screens we just tried to double him basically,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “The backside of our ball screen defense was terrific today, and so that made the whole difference on it. And Anthony [Cowan] is a good defender, he can get up in him. But he missed a couple early.”
Maryland held a steady 16 point lead in the first half, but the intensity that was felt in the first 16 minutes of the game suddenly disappeared, and the Wildcats went on a quick 9-2 run at the end of the first half to cut the lead to just seven points.
The Terps quickly regained their footing to start the second half, and got Northwestern to commit a couple of quick turnovers to set the tone.
Maryland’s freshman guard Darryl Morsell only scored four points in the opening 20 minutes, but then became a key feature in the second half, scoring 10 points to help push Maryland’s lead.
“He played like the Darryl we recruited today,” Turgeon said. “I thought all of Darryl’s tips were just huge for us, it is hard to score against that matchup, but I thought his tips came at the right time, which was great.”
Fellow freshman Bruno Fernando was unable to get going on offense, but he did not let that slow him down. The big man had three blocks in the game that got the crowd fired up. Near the end of the game, Fernando had four fouls and that essentially was the end of his night.
Luckily, Turgeon was able to turn to his senior center, Michal Cekovsky, who came back from an injured ankle he sustained in practice before the Jan. 31 game against Purdue. He finished with four points in fifteen minutes played.
This win was important for Maryland because March is right around the corner. Even though the pressure is at an all-time high, the team is just focused on the next task at hand, which is an away game at Nebraska on Tuesday.
“We can’t really look into March,” Cowan said. “We just have to take it game by game.”