Maryland sneaks past No. 6 Wisconsin for its first Big Ten win of the season

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

After a quick up-fake, Donta Scott rushed to the paint where he met three defenders. Only two dared to jump in his vicinity, but it didn’t matter. Scott threw it down with two hands and put the Terps up five with a minute left to play. The game was the Terps’ to lose. 

Maryland (6-3, 1-2 B1G) was far from favored in its third Big Ten matchup against Wisconsin (8-2, 2-1 B1G), but it put up a fight that kept the Badgers on their toes. A full 40 minutes was needed for the Terps to sneak past the No. 6 Badgers in Madison on a 70-64 scoreline. This was the Terps’ first win over a top ten opponent since Jan. 28, 2016 against then No. 3 Iowa.

“We just get a little bit better each game,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We get a little bit tougher and finally it all came together tonight.” 

The opening minutes of the contest were the most promising of the season thus far. The Terps defense was sound and it kept Wisconsin’s top tier offensive attack in check. The home side shot well below 40% from the field for the entirety of the first half and committed four turnovers. 

But the Badgers defense came to play as well, except the offensive performance by Maryland was like many others this season — lackluster. The Terps committed six turnovers and, aside from an aggressive, 11-point scoring effort by Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell, were looking quite uninspired as well. What resulted was a quiet first half defensive battle. 

But as soon as the second half began, the offensive fireworks began to fly — for both sides. A four-point Badger lead quickly ballooned to an eight-point advantage for Wisconsin. And in an effort to halt the Badgers’ offensive momentum, Turgeon implemented a 3-2 zone. The defensive adjustment made for a much needed jolt of energy on both sides of the ball. It kept Wisconsin scoreless for nearly three minutes and it allowed Maryland to even up the score at 34. 

For the next ten minutes a back and forth scoring battle ensued. Each Maryland bucket came with a Wisconsin response. Layups by Morsell, Scott, and Eric Ayala ripped through the Badgers man defense, but a pair of high post jumpers, a layup and a two hand slam — all from Nate Reuvers — was enough to keep things close. 

However, once Maryland edged out a two possession lead, it never looked back. In what proved to be a game sealing run that began with a Jairus Hamilton triple and ended with an Ayala and-one, Maryland jumped out to a five-point lead that teetered as time went but never diminished. 

“We started cutting harder, making good reads and putting pressure on them with the dribble,” Turgeon said. “That was really the key.” 

The Badgers didn’t have the energy or firepower to respond. And if Ayala’s and-one bucket wasn’t the fatal blow, Scott’s poster dunk was the nail in the coffin. With every big play, Maryland’s bench exploded with enthusiasm and Scott’s finish was no different.

“We had great energy all night,” Turgeon said. “And the dunk was obviously an exciting play.”

This time Wisconsin had no answer for Maryland’s scoring, the Badgers showed urgency but lacked efficiency. The shots stopped falling for the ranked side, allowing Maryland to earn their sixth win of the season.

Maryland played a full 40 minutes of Big Ten basketball and was rewarded with an unlikely victory against a top ten opponent. It’s not often the Terps earn wins against teams of this caliber, but a win like this will surely go a long way.  

Up next, the Terps will head home to face No. 16 Michigan on New Years Eve.