Maryland’s valiant second half comeback effort falls short in loss against No. 14 Wisconsin

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

As Maryland (9-8, 3-7 B1G) seemingly gained all momentum with the deficit trimmed to four, Wisconsin (13-4, 7-3 B1G) senior Micah Potter reached his outstretched hand over Hakim Hart and tipped in the second-chance opportunity plus the foul. 

Potter tacked on the free throw and then two consecutive baskets as the once marginal Badger lead ballooned to double digits. That run was indicative of the veteran big man’s dominance throughout as his 23-point 12-rebound performance diminished Maryland’s comeback hopes in the 61-55 loss.

The Terps’ dismal shooting in the first 20 minutes put them in an extremely difficult position as they trailed 38-20 at the break and Donta Scott scored half of the team’s points. Maryland shot 7-for-28 overall and 2-for-14 from behind the arc, as it was unable to take the lid off the basket.

All the more frustrating for the Terps those shooting struggles weren’t a byproduct of poor offense, but an inability to convert open looks. Most of Maryland’s threes in the first half came off of high screen and roll opportunities as the Badgers overextended and the screens were late to rotate.

Maryland’s inability to score didn’t hold them back in the opening five minutes as its stifling defense and active hands kept the Badgers at bay. However, as the first half progressed, the Badgers’ offense found a little rhythm and Maryland suffered through its first prolonged scoring drought.

Over a 6:02 stretch, the Terps went without a basket as they missed six consecutive shots and the Badgers orchestrated an 8-0 run off threes by D’Mitrik Trice and Nate Reuvers. That run extended Wisconsin’s lead to double-digits, which only grew as the first half continued.

Scott finally solved Maryland’s perimeter shooting woes as he knocked down two threes, ending the Terps’ 0-for-9 start from three. That momentum was short-lived as Potter took over in the final five minutes of the first half. Potter showcased his versatility as he knocked down a three and then quickly followed that up with an emphatic dunk, which he let Maryland know about.

“We lost the game really right before halftime, the last 3:46 we weren’t very good and [Wisconsin] was very good,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought we missed a lot of open shots in the first half that maybe could’ve changed some things.”

Trailing by 18 at the break, Maryland knew a strong start to the second half would be pivotal. The Terps delivered just that with an 8-0 run, which cut Wisconsin’s lead to 10 in the first three minutes. Aaron Wiggins and Hakim Hart each converted a three while Darryl Morsell added a perimeter jumper. 

“Going into the locker room at halftime we all knew we hadn’t played up to our potential,” Wiggins said. “We knew we had to get better on the defensive end and get better shots on the offensive end.”

Maryland’s ball and body movement to the start the second half was vastly improved as players were in constant motion and the ball was shifting from side-to-side. That unselfishness and fluidity offensively was most evident as Wiggins took over for Maryland. 

Trailing by 12 after an Aleem Ford three, Wiggins scored seven of Maryland’s next nine points showing his diverse offensive repertoire as he led the team with 18 points. The junior knocked down a three, converted at the line and buried a pull-up jumper, which brought Maryland to within three for the first time since the opening five minutes.

However, Wisconsin immediately answered with a Brad Davison three that extended the Badgers’ cushion to six. After a tough basket from Galin Smith, Maryland’s offense suffered another pivotal scoring drought this time defined by several turnovers. As Maryland’s offense couldn’t get past 42 points, the Badgers lead continued to increase with an 11-0 once again keyed by Potter.

“We had a couple turnovers and we had a jump ball and probably a bad shot in there,” Turgeon said. “We made two mistakes on defense back-to-back, it shouldn’t happen.”

The veteran notched nine of the team’s 11 points during the run, once again displaying his offensive versatility as he made Maryland pay for not locking into its defensive assignments. 

Maryland continued to battle down the stretch as they trimmed the lead to seven with less than two minutes left, but back-to-back missed open threes sank the Terps’ hopes of a lofty comeback.

“We held [Wisconsin] to 61 [points] in our building, that should be good enough to win and it wasn’t,” Turgeon said.

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