The Northwestern Wildcats silenced the Maryland-leaning Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. — overcoming a first half deficit and defeating the Terrapins, 72-64, to end Maryland’s Big Ten Tournament hopes.
The quarterfinal contest may as well have been at the Xfinity Center. Red, black and gold dominated Northwestern purple in the crowd. But the Wildcats were unfazed, coming from behind to dominate the second period.
“What a great crowd. The crowd was amazing,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “We just didn’t play with the toughness we needed to play with [and] we didn’t play very smart.”
Kevin Huerter, who ended his night with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists, echoed Turgeon’s claims about lacking physicality
“Obviously we got out-toughed,” Huerter said.
Northwestern outpaced the Terps in every shooting statistic: 55 percent from the field, 47 percent from three and 65 percent from the free throw line. Turgeon’s Terps managed 47 percent, 38 percent and 59 percent for the aforementioned stats.
“I mean, [we] just couldn’t find any consistency with our offense,” Melo Trimble said. “Of course, we had that big [scoring] drought. That was really the game.”
Northwestern also outrebounded Maryland 32 to 24, yielding 11 second-chance points, while the Terps only mustered six.
Maryland’s bench — which is usually a reliable scoring punch — garnered just six points. Second unit stalwarts Jaylen Brantley, Jared Nickens, L.G. Gill and Ivan Bender combined for a meager six points, four rebounds and three assists, overburdening the starters’ offensive workload.
Northwestern’s bench amassed 14 points, although three of their starters — forward Vic Law (17 points) guard Scottie Lindsey (17 points) and guard Bryant McIntosh (16 points) — accounted for the majority of the Wildcat offense.
Turgeon highlighted sloppy point guard play as the heart of the offensive woes. Brantley (one), Anthony Cowan (five) and Trimble (six) combined for 12 out of 14 Terp turnovers. Northwestern capitalized on the turnovers, scoring 25 points off them. Maryland forced 16 Wildcat turnovers, but managed just 15 points from them.
“They played in the gap,” Trimble said. “Everyone collapsed whenever I went to the basket. They just tried to put a lot of hands up, tried to take charges, tried to find a way to affect me.”
Maryland showed promise in the first half, shooting 51.9 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from three and most importantly going into the locker room in front, 36-34.
In the first half, the Terps had more assists (9) and fewer turnovers (6) than the Wildcats, who had seven and nine, respectively. Maryland also went 100 percent from the free throw stripe, compared to 55.6 percent for Northwestern.
Perhaps Maryland’s biggest advantage in the first half was scoring in the paint, where they outpaced their opponent 20 to 6.
Maryland opened the second half on an 8-0 run, but surrendered the lead about five minutes later and never threatened to take it back.
The Wildcats shot 58.3 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three and 72.7 percent from the free throw stripe in the second period.
Even though the Terps improved their shooting from deep (42.9 percent) their field goal and free throw percentages plummeted to 41.7 percent.
After winning the turnover battle in the first period, Maryland committed eight turnovers in the second half, compared to six for the Wildcats. Northwestern also cut into the Terps’ paint-scoring advantage by putting up 18 second half points in the paint, while Maryland managed just 12.
Northwestern moves on to the Big Ten Tournament semifinal where they will face No. 2 Wisconsin Saturday.
For Maryland, it’s back to the drawing board as they still have to prepare for the NCAA Tournament, where they won’t experience a crowd like tonight’s.
“We had a good crowd there,” Trimble said. “This was the best that we’ve seen them all year. Unfortunately… we lost.”
Trimble added that they have the bigger tournament to look forward to and prepare for. Both he and Huerter explained that they must put this game in the rearview.
“We just have to try to forget about this game,” Huerter said. “Try to get past it, move on [and] realize that there’s still great things for us to do, hopefully.”