By Emily Olsen
Wisconsin’s hopes of a Big Ten regular season crown were put on hold Tuesday night by a solid gold Terrapin wall. No. 14 Maryland defeated No. 5 Wisconsin 59-53 at home in the Xfinity Center.
An announced 17,950 students lined the Xfinity Center dressed in their matching Maryland Gold Rush T-Shirts and looked for another conference win at home. The team did not disappoint. Maryland (23-5, 11-4) scored 31 point in the first half and lead Wisconsin (25-3, 13-2) by 11 points going into halftime. The sold-out student section roared with energy for a team that has brought excitement back to Maryland Basketball.
“Our student section gave us energy,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “We feed off that.”
Coach Turgeon was also happy with the leadership of Wells who scored 26 points and recorded seven rebounds.
“That’s what you expect out of a guy who grows with the program,” Coach Turgeon said of Wells. “His determination rubbed off on all of us.”
Wells and freshman Melo Trimble combined for 42 of Maryland’s 59 points in the victory over Wisconsin and Wells’ leadership proved essential to the Terps’ win.
Maryland isolated Wells and Trimble in the first half and the duo made the most of the opportunity by powering the Maryland offense early in the game.
Maryland made improvements on defense and kept Wisconsin’s to 40 percent shooting from the field. As a team Maryland improved defensively with major plays from junior Jake Layman, Sophomore Domonte Dodd, Smotrycz, and a stand out performance by freshman Michal Cekovsky.
Cekovsky is a 7 feet 1 inch freshman from Slovakia. He has had some trouble this season maintaining confidence and consistency, but Tuesday night, against the number one ranked team in the Big Ten, Cekovsky stepped up for the Terps.
“He’s been practicing well for about three or four weeks and I knew this night was coming,” a confident Coach Turgeon said about Cekovsky. “I didn’t tell him it was coming because I think he would have been worried about it.”
Cekovsky scored only four points and recorded six rebounds, but his performance was a personal high that was underlined by a slam dunk late in the first half assisted by Wells.
“He’s had some of those freshman woes that some of the other guys haven’t. It’s been tough on him but we have been keeping him confident,” Wells said of Cekovsky. “Tonight he showed up very poised and confident about himself.”
Coach Turgeon’s faith in Cekovsky has helped keep the focus, but Cekovsky understands that playing well isn’t just one good game and done.
“It’s a process. I think it’s coming step by step,” Cekovsky said. “I try to stay positive everyday and keep working hard.”
After a stellar performance in the first half by the Terps and a lack-luster offensive show with missed jumpers from Wisconsin, the Badgers came out of the half with a quicker offense and more accuracy. Team leaders Kaminsky and junior forward Sam Dekker helped Wisconsin tie the Terps 47-47 with less than seven minutes to play.
With less than five minutes to play Wells came up big once again and took the ball down the court. He saw Dekker lean one way off balance and went up for the one-handed dunk and sent the electric Xfinity fans into overdrive.
“When they made their run I told our guys, ‘they got that first swing in, so are we going to take a step back or are we going to swing back and show toughness and poise and finish the game?’” Wells said. “Our guys did a great job and showed poise.”
After the final buzzer the Maryland faithful rushed the court to celebrate with their victorious Terps.
“It was very exciting. I was surprised,” Trimble said. “I knew it was going to be big and just how I imagined before I got here.”
Maryland looks to finish the season strong with only three games remaining. The Terp’s next game is set for this Saturday at noon in College Park against Michigan. Tune in live to WMUC Sports for the call!