Aaron Wiggins career night spoiled as Maryland struggles to protect the ball in 60-55 loss at Northwestern

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

With 1:30 remaining, Northwestern forward Ryan Young attacked his matchup on the much smaller Aaron Wiggins and banked the shot in off the window putting the Wildcats back on top 56-55.

That basket proved to be the game-winner in the low-scoring contest, as Northwestern (8-14, 5-13 B1G) snapped Maryland’s (9-10, 15-11 B1G) five-game winning streak in the 60-55 win. 

The 15 turnovers were a significant issue for the Terps as it halted their rhythm offensively, just two shy of a season-high 17. Maryland also only attempted seven free throws and didn’t shoot its first until there was 6:31 remaining in the contest, which proved costly on a night where Wiggins shot 10-15 from the field and finished with a career-high 26 points.

“It’s a frustrating night all around and the team that deserved to win won the game tonight,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We got back to our inconsistencies when we weren’t a very good team, we were back to that team tonight.”

Darryl Morsell also added 14 points on 6-8 shooting, while Eric Ayala struggled with just five five points on 2-12 shooting. The Terps also finished with zero bench points struggling to get production from their reserves.

Maryland went the final 2:32 of the contest without a basket, missing its last seven field goals, including threes from Ayala and Morsell that would’ve either given the Terps the lead or tied the game in the last minute.

“We didn’t get the stops we needed to, that’s really what it came down to,” Morsell said. “We put ourselves in good positions offensively to make shots, but I don’t think we got the stops we needed to win that game.”

Boo Buie, Chase Audige and Pete Nance led the Wildcats’ well-balanced offensive attack as the trio knocked down nine of the team’s ten three-pointers. Buie led the group with 15 points, while Audige added 14 and Nance tacked on 12.

Maryland couldn’t have scripted a better start to the game jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the opening 3:31 playing smothering defense and efficient offense. However, the ensuing 5:39 the Terps turned the ball over six times on seven possessions, throwing poor passes and lacking fundamentals. 

“The game is a lot from the neck up, there’s a lot to be said about the neck up,” Turgeon said. “We just weren’t worth a flip from the neck up all game.”

Northwestern made Maryland pay for their mistakes orchestrating a 10-2 run over that period, also finding success on the offensive glass with six offensive rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. 

Six of those points during the run came from behind the arc as the Wildcats found success from three making the Terps pay for not communicating fast enough when rotating out to shooters after a double team. 

That three-point shooting success allowed Northwestern to build a six-point lead with 4:48 remaining in the first half. Northwestern’s prolific shooting from behind the arc was a key theme in the first half as Buie, Nance and Audige combined to knock down eight triples.

The final 4:48 of the first half, Wiggins and Morsell led Maryland offensively with Morsell attacking the basket and Wiggins finding openings on the perimeter. At the half, Wiggins scored 13 of the team’s 26 points, including a trio of makes from behind the arc. 

The eight first half turnovers were more than Maryland’s total in its last game against Michigan State. They were also a key reason the team trailed 28-26 at halftime, the first time they trailed at the break since a 73-65 loss on Feb. 8 against then-No. 4 Ohio State.

“Just not focused, it’s us we can’t blame nobody else,” Morsell said of the turnover issues. “We can’t blame coach Turgeon, it’s us five on the court, we’ve got to take care of the ball. We’re playing, we’re not running in transition turning the ball over, it’s all in the halfcourt. So we’ve got to do a better job making reads and making the right plays.”

Early in the second half, Audige was the main catalyst for Northwestern’s offense building on his success from behind the arc in the first half. The Wildcats tied their largest lead of the contest at six with 14:36 remaining, but Wiggins kept the Terps in it.

Maryland quickly erased the six-point deficit and tied the game at 43 with 9:54 remaining as Ayala and Wiggins both knocked down a three. However, after the timeout, the Terps turnover issue reared its ugly head again as Northwestern responded with a 5-0 run with baskets from Nance and Ryan Greer.

With 4:50 remaining, Wiggins buried a three which gave the Terps their first lead of the contest since the opening ten minutes. On the ensuing possession, Nance responded with a tough pull-up jumper. Once again trailing, Wiggins orchestrated his best drive of the night with a beautiful spin move plus the foul, which gave the Terps a two-point lead with 4:02 remaining.

His pretty finish was Maryland’s last made field goal of the night as the Wildcats defense clamped up down the stretch transitioning to a zone defense. Morsell briefly gave Maryland the lead on one free throw with 2:32 remaining, but Young’s aforementioned layin put the Wildcats back on top for good.

Maryland fought to regain the lead most of the night but the turnovers and defensive lapses prevented the Terps from securing their sixth straight win and a winning record in the conference for the first time this season.