Late turnovers and free-throw misses doomed Northwestern (15-5, 3-4 Big Ten), which fell short of a monumental upset in overtime for a second-consecutive heartbreaking loss at Maryland's Xfinity Center, losing 62-56.
Northwestern took an early lead, benefitting from some sloppy play from the hosts, who turned the ball over 9 times and allowed 7 offensive rebounds in the opening period. Northwestern didn't shoot the ball particularly well — 41 percent to Maryland's 52 percent — but that was largely nullified by the Wildcats' work on the offensive glass. Northwestern finished with a season-high 17 offensive rebounds.
Northwestern made 4 three-pointers in the first half, a market improvement from the team's loss to Penn State on Saturday, where the Wildcats missed their first 17 attempts. The lead stretched to seven at one point, but a four-minute scoring drought allowed Maryland (17-2, 6-1) to creep back into the game. Maryland took its first lead with 1:26 left in the first half on a Melo Trimble three and led 31-29 at the break.
While senior center Alex Olah couldn't get anything going in the first half or at any point, freshman Dererk Pardon gave Northwestern a nice spark. The freshman made his first five shots, showcasing a nifty left hook and comfort finishing at the rim with both hands. Despite his strong play, Pardon played only 14 minutes and was on the bench down the stretch in favor of Joey van Zegeren.
Maryland came out firing in the second half and seemed poised to take the game over. Maryland led 39-31 with 14:24 to go, but an Aaron Falzon three and two consecutive Tre Demps buckets got Northwestern right back in the game.
It was back and forth from there. Northwestern's lead reached 4 down the stretch after Sanjay Lumpkin dunked a loose ball after Demps was blocked by Maryland forward Jake Layman. Both teams struggled to score as the clock wound down. Maryland didn't score in the last 4:45 of regulation. Both teams also missed key free throws — Maryland's Rasheed Sulaimon missed a pair with Maryland up 48-47 with 2:56 remaining, and Bryant McIntosh made one of two on Northwestern's next possession.
Northwestern found itself with the ball with the game tied 48-all twice in the closing seconds and turned it over both times. On the first possession, McIntosh fumbled the ball out of bounds. On the following possession Falzon had a three blocked out of bounds by Layman. Then, Trimble trapped and eventually stripped van Zegeren in the corner. On the subsequent possession Trimble missed a deep, contested three with two seconds remaining that would have won the game for Maryland. Overtime began with the score reading 48-48.
Trimble opened the overtime scoring with a three-point play, but Falzon answered with a finger roll in the lane. Falzon, who finished with 13 points, fouled out with 3:36 remaining in the extra period. Maryland repeatedly pushed ahead, but some strong Northwestern defense, hesitation from Maryland's perimeter players and timely rebounding allowed Northwestern to stick around.
That's when Trimble went into attack mode again. He set up Robert Carter for a layup and Diamond Stone for an and-one to put Maryland up 58-55. Then van Zegeren went to the line with 44.2 seconds to go and split a pair before Stone knocked down atwo free throws to put Maryland up four. From there, Maryland salted away the victory at the line.
— Northwestern needs more from Alex Olah and Tre Demps. While Demps made some key buckets to help Northwestern back in the game, his shot selection was for the most part terrible. He finished 3 of 14 and was particularly frustrating down the stretch when he seemed to dribble the life out of the basketball. Olah's understandably rusty from his foot injury, but what's perhaps more concerning is that it seems he isn't mobile enough to be super effective in this pick-and-roll heavy offense. He also struggled to defend Maryland's pick-and-roll.
— It's an encouraging sign that Northwestern was able to hang around with one of the nation's best teams, but this one has to hurt. Northwestern still doesn't have a strong win on its resume, and this game was there for the taking.
— Free-throw struggles continue to plague Northwestern, which shot 5 of 12 from the line and missed key attempts late. That needs to improve, plain and simple.
— Northwestern's freshmen were terrific. Falzon was excellent throughout; he didn't hesitate at all and seemed more willing to go to the basket than in games past. Pardon was super efficient and was particularly effective with his back to the basket, which is an encouraging sign. Chris Collins is going to have to craft more minutes for Pardon, who didn't see any minutes in crunch time despite his effectiveness.
— Melo Trimble came out on top in the battle of the point guards and is an unbelievable talent. Trimble finished with 18 points and 6 assists, while McIntosh went for 12 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but he shot just 5 of 18 from the field and turned the ball over late. Trimble sees the floor tremendously and has the ball on an absolute string. When this game got tight, he took over and helped close proceedings.
— Northwestern didn't look comfortable in crunch time. The offense was stagnant and turned the ball over on consecutive possessions. I'm not sure what the cause is, but Northwestern will need to find a way to close games better.