Offensive struggles reign in Maryland’s loss to Northwestern

The 15-13 (7-10 Big Ten) Maryland Terrapins returned home to Xfinity Center on Wednesday night for their penultimate home game of the regular season. 

Hosting the 19-8 (10-6 Big Ten) Northwestern Wildcats, Maryland looked to create a two-game win streak after beating Rutgers on Sunday, 63-46. Northwestern’s last loss was handed by Rutgers on Feb. 15, but since then the Wildcats have torn through both Indiana and Michigan to sit at third in the conference. 

Northwestern would extend its win streak to three, defeating Maryland 68-61. 

“We missed some good looks and it kind of just affected us the rest of the game,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said in his post-game presser. “It’s just frustrating for them when we struggle offensively and it’s been a battle all year.”

The Wildcats found themselves without starting guards Ty Berry and Ryan Langborg due to injury, which left Brooks Barnhizer, Boo Buie and Blake Smith to start at the position alongside forward Nick Martinelli and center Matthew Nicholson.

For Maryland, guards DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jahmir Young took the court first with forwards Jordan Geronimo, Julian Reese and Donta Scott.

The lead flipped between both teams in the opening minutes of the first half with neither team able to pull ahead by multiple possessions. Despite not sinking a two-point shot for eight consecutive minutes, Maryland stayed tied 10-10 at the 10-minute mark thanks to its success at the free-throw line.

Harris-Smith was Maryland’s key playmaker to start the game. He led well above his teammates with seven points in the first 15 minutes to end Maryland’s scoring drought and retake the lead for just the second time at 8:54. 

“I just feel like I have an alpha personality, so when we’re down I feel like it’s my job to rally the team together and do whatever I can to help us win,” Harris-Smith said. “Today it just happened to be to score.”

With just over five minutes remaining in the half, Willard received a technical foul which helped extend Northwestern’s unanswered free throw count to seven and gave the Wildcats a solid, multi-possession lead. 

But Maryland would respond immediately after with its own string of free throws— six from Jahmir Young who pulled ahead as Maryland’s point-leader in the first half with 11. Despite Young’s efforts, the Terps entered the half trailing 24-29 while shooting 19% from the field. 

“It’s always tough to play a team twice,” Young said afterwards. “[Northwestern] hadn’t played in a week, so they’ve been watching us for a little bit. They knew all of our sets and made it tough for us to get our easy baskets.”

Northwestern’s lead would slowly grow as the second half neared halfway. Forced to take a bulk of their shots from beyond the arc, Harris-Smith and Young sank just two of Maryland’s 18 three-point attempts by the time 10 minutes were left in the game. 

Even after coming within two points to tie with a six-point run from Donta Scott and Young, Maryland found itself in foul trouble to give Northwestern easy buckets at the free-throw line once again. The Wildcats carried a nine-point lead with eight minutes to play, leaving Willard to keep Julian Reese on the court with four fouls. Reese would not foul out, however. 

With two minutes left on the clock, Maryland finished capitalizing off of an 8-0 run with layups from Harris-Smith, Reese and Young to sit just three points short of Northwestern. Despite the last ditch effort, Maryland still trailed by seven points when time expired, falling to a 15-14 record.

Maryland’s point-leaders included Young (24 points), Harris-Smith (14 points) and Reese (12 points). For Northwestern, Martinelli led with 27 points, followed by Barnhizer (14 points) and Buie (12 points). 

“I’ve competed against Maryland for many, many years with my Duke background and I know what this program represents,” said Northwestern head coach Chris Collins. “And I know Kevin [Willard] is gonna get them to a great place.”

The Terps move on to host Indiana on Sunday for their final home game.