Make that ten straight.
Northwestern (6-18, 1-14) suffered another conference loss Tuesday evening, falling to the Big Ten leaders No. 7 Maryland (22-4, 12-3) 76-67 on the road. The Wildcats put together an impressive second half comeback that nearly saw them erase a double-digit halftime deficit, but it will still go down as yet another loss for a young Wildcat team that has been in free fall for quite some time now.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Young was the best player on the floor for Northwestern, finishing with a team high 17 points despite going up against one of the Big Ten’s best big men in Jalen Smith. Boo Buie and Miller Kopp also had solid nights with 15 and 13 respectively
Smith proved too much for the Wildcats on the other end of the floor though, finishing with a game-high 22 points and 19 (!) rebounds as he continues to shine as one of the top players in the Big Ten.
A familiar story unfolded in the opening minutes of the game. Northwestern played sloppy offense and struggled to limit Maryland’s open looks from deep, and the Terps punished them to the tune of 7-of-17 from downtown in the first. But stingy defense and a couple of converted looks allowed the ‘Cats to claw back into the contest, getting within two before Maryland widened its lead.
Back-to-back easy buckets for Jalen Smith positioned Maryland with a nine-point lead fewer than six minutes into the game. But Northwestern wouldn’t fold that quickly. A combination of buckets from Buie and a triple from A.J. Turner brought Northwestern back within four, and NU continued to compete.
Smith dominated early for the Terrapins, and before the end of first half he had secured his seventeenth double-double of the year with 12 points and 12 boards.
The deficit shrunk to as few as three, but as was the story in the half, Mark Turgeon’s squad responded by nailing threes to go on a 12-3 run and mount a 37-25 halftime lead.
The Wildcats came out of the gates valiantly in the second half, using a 13-4 run to cut the Terrapin lead to just five early on in the period. Young provided the spark down low for Northwestern, refusing to back down and getting the better of Smith multiple times in one-on-one matchups in the post. Northwestern also clamped down on the defensive end, forcing a mediocre three-point shooting team in Maryland to put them away with the deep ball, which the Terps failed to do.
Despite a tough first twenty minutes, Pat Spencer came out with energy in the second half. A nifty drive and layup from the Davidsonville, Maryland native (~25 miles from UMD’s campus) followed by a forced turnover on a nice hustle play somehow got the game to within four points at the under-12 timeout.
But that’s as close as the Wildcats would get for the remainder of the contest.
Playing its second long-distance road game in just three days, NU’s comeback effort sputtered down the stretch, with Maryland’s athleticism proving too much to overcome in the end. The ‘Cats certainly battled and did well to keep things within single-digits for the majority of the closing period, but it wasn’t enough to give NU what would’ve been a miracle second Big Ten win.
NU continues its march to Bankers Life Fieldhouse at home Sunday against a bubble team in Minnesota. Five more regular season contest to go, folks.