Maryland basketball power past No.21 Northwestern, caps off undefeated home record in conference play

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball laid waste to yet another Big Ten challenger on Sunday in a 75-59 statement win over No. 21 Northwestern, reminding everyone for the final time that College Park is host to one of the most powerful home court advantages in the country. This marked its tenth straight win in the Xfinity Center, and they’ve now gone 9-0 in home conference matchups.

The Terps turned in their best shooting performance of the season, combining efficiency and volume to go 14-22 from behind the three-point line to bury the Wildcats with plenty of time remaining in the second period. Senior night saw Maryland starters combine for 64 points, led by Jahmir Young’s 18 points to satisfy the fans in their final home game of the regular season.

“I just told them to have fun,” said Maryland coach Kevin Willard. “I never have fun on Senior Night, I’m an emotional wreck. This group has worked really hard, and I was gonna be appreciative of what they’ve given us.”

Maryland, winners of seven of their last nine, most recently made an example out of Minnesota in demonstrating how difficult it is to win in their territory. All five starters scored in double figures in an 88-70 bludgeoning, and Sophomore forward Julian Reese secured at least nine rebounds for the third game in a row.

Northwestern was coming off a four-point loss against Illinois on the road last Thursday and then had to prepare themselves against an even tougher home-court advantage for this team’s first meeting of the season. The Wildcats have won 20 games thanks to their holding opponents to 62 points a game, the second lowest in the Big Ten. 

Maryland honored its seniors for Senior Night before the game commenced, which comprised most of its regular rotation of players. Jahmir Young, Donta Scott, Hakim Hart, Don Carey and Patrick Emilien, five of the seven highest minute per game leaders, were all recognized by the crowd with their families by their side.

The Terps had had some tough openings to games thanks to the players and crowds pumped with adrenaline, but tonight wasn’t one of those starts. The Wildcats’ defense was just as efficient as advertised, but the Terps hit a pair of threes early thanks to Young and Hart keeping their heads above water.

The Northwestern offense, however, which ranked second to last in the conference, had no issue keeping up. Chase Audige had eight of the Wildcats’ first 16 points, and while the Terps shot better from outside, the visitors made everything at the rim. 

Even when falling behind halfway through the first period, the Terps scored when it counted to pull even. Young continued to get to the hole at will, and shooters cleared space for Reese to establish himself inside to help clean up the glass.

The game remained neck-and-neck heading into the half, exhibited by the nine different lead changes, and the Terps regained the lead to head into the break with Young burying his fourth tough long ball of the game. His 16 points were impressive, but no one else from Maryland had more than seven.

Chase Audige’s impressive tough shot-making also didn’t wear off, and he had 14 points to lead with Wildcats. Much like Reese, his total doubled his team’s second-highest scorer. Northwestern had won the rebounding battle through 20 minutes, and no team shot more than three free throws.

Maryland’s hot shooting continued when play resumed, as Hart and Scott hit the team’s ninth and tenth threes four minutes into the new half. Ian Martinez added another a few minutes later, allowing the Terps to go up 55-46, the game’s biggest lead for anyone.

Much of Maryland’s success came from locking in on Buie, who had a quiet first half with three points on four shots. He didn’t do much better to start the second, and his impressive eight assists were a result of the Terps making others beat them.

Scott also proved a quiet spark plug throughout the afternoon, having demanded very little of the ball but capitalized on his chances to give Young a break. He shot 5-8 on the day, sinking the only three he took.

The game started to get away from Northwestern about midway through the half as they failed to respond to the Maryland onslaught as they had earlier. The lead ballooned to 11, then 13, then 16 as Audige and Buie combined for three points through the entire second period.

“We weren’t trapping as much in the press, but we wanted to get the ball out of his hands early,” Willard said. “We took away the dribble handoffs, and I think he’s so good at turning the corner, going to his right. Without that, I thought that was part of the reason he struggled.”

Reese battled hard for rebounds to limit Northwestern’s second-chance points, grabbing his tenth rebound at the four-minute mark. Amazingly, the threes never stopped going in, as Ian Martinez nailed Maryland’s 14th a minute later. This passed the season record for threes made in a game of 13 against St. Louis, and they shot a whopping 32 that afternoon while only taking 22 on Sunday.

A Scott steal turned into a Hart transition dunk at the 1:23 mark, which put Maryland up by 18. The starters exited right after to roaring applause in what was the last regular season game most of them would play at the collegiate level.

Northwestern dribbled out the clock, sealing the 75-59 Maryland win for their tenth straight home win of the season. They’d knocked off the ranked opponent, winning all eight conference home games hosted in the Kevin Willard era.

The seniors notably stepped up, and all five starters once again scored in double figures. Young led the squad with 18, but Carey helped out with 13 points and four threes to match his point guard. Hart distributed seven assists, and Scott turned in a well-timed efficient performance. And on Reese, Willard restated “I wouldn’t take anybody else.”

Maryland will embark back on the road to play their final two games of the season, first against Ohio State on Wednesday and then Penn State next Sunday. Their road record has noticeably lagged behind their dominant home splits, but they know what needs to be done in hostile arenas.

“We have to bring that same energy, have that urgency that we have at home,” Young said. “Really just embrace it’s gonna go up and down, and just know it’s us vs. everybody, that extra motivation, I feel like that will pay.”