Everyone take a deep breath.
Back at home after splitting a two-game road trip, Northwestern (13-4,4-2 B1G) squeezed out a thrilling 72-69 win over Maryland (11-7, 3-4 B1G).
For Northwestern, Boo Buie led the way with 20 points and seven assists, and Brooks Barnhizer aided the effort with 15 points, four rebounds and five steals. Matt Nicholson. coming off the bench, tacked on a strong 10 points and seven rebounds to push the ‘Cats to victory.
For Maryland, it was the Jahmir Young show. Young’s 36 points, including 28 second-half points, paced all scorers. Jordan Geronimo, Donta Scott and Julian Reese all finished in double digits too.
The Terrapins tacked on the first points of the evening with Geronimo nailing a corner three. After Brooks Barnhizer connected on a pull-up jumper for Northwestern’s first score, Young got to work for Maryland, converting on a floater off the glass and assisting Geronimo on a sweet backdoor cut for a 7-4 lead.
Down a score, a Barnhizer steal gave the home crowd something to cheer about, allowing Ty Berry to get out in transition and finish a fast-break layup, pulling Northwestern within one. Out of a short timeout, Barnhizer racked up another steal, leading to a Ryan Langborg wing triple to give the ‘Cats a 9-7 advantage. After a Reese paint jumper knotted things at nine, Barnhizer’s third steal in a minute-and-a-half ended with a two-hand transition jam. Moments later, Buie connected on a deep trey from the top of the key giving Northwestern a 14-12 lead at the under-12 timeout.
The lead didn’t last for long, as Maryland’s strong start from deep continued, this time Donta Scott swishing a top of the key three. After Barnhizer connected on two free throws to give Northwestern its lead back, two great defensive possessions by the Terrapins plus a Young uncontested transition layup had the ‘Cats in a 17-16 hole. Taking a Ty Berry pass out ahead of the play, Nick Martinelli quickly changed that, smashing a thunderous fast-break dunk to put Northwestern back up on top.
Reese kept the back-and-forth affair going, finishing a contested lefty layup over Luke Hunger. Reese continued to attack, this time driving on Nicholson with a nifty up-and-under move for two more at the rim. Trailing by three after Nicholson and Young traded buckets at the rim, Langborg tied things up 23-23 with a straight-away triple.
Out of the under-four timeout, both squads traded buckets with a Young paint score pulling the Terrapins to within two with three seconds left in the first frame. But out of the use-it-or-lose-it timeout, Buie had other plans. Running the length of the floor and flipping up a right-handed prayer from inside the arc, Buie’s buzzer-beating miracle gave the ‘Cats a 32-28 halftime cushion.
At the break, Barnhizer led all scorers with 11 points, but Maryland’s 10 turnovers and 52.2% shooting from the field compared to Northwestern’s three turnovers and 43.3% shooting had things close.
Young came to play in the second frame, dropping five in the first 60 seconds. The shifty scorer got to the line, converting on two early free throws and added three more off a tough and-one finish in traffic. Buie answered, hoisting his patented floater for two and finding Nicholson on a lob. Yet, sloppy play got Maryland right back into things with Geronimo putting home a second-chance layup, and Young scored two more off a poor Buie breakout pass.
Buie the creator continued to get Nicholson involved. This time, Buie slashed his way inside, using the jump stop to freeze a defender, and dished the rock to Nicholson under the basket who finished with authority. A couple of possessions later, a Langborg left-handed drive and keeper gave Northwestern a 45-39 advantage. Facing its largest deficit of the evening, Maryland cut things back to two with two tough Young layups. Throw in a two-hand flush from Scott and the game was tied 45-45 with 11:30 to go.
With the ‘Cats in the bonus, three quick Maryland fouls led directly to five Northwestern points at the line. However, the foul fiesta continued with two Northwestern fouls, putting Maryland in the bonus and giving the Terrapins three more from the line. Holding a 50-48 lead, Northwestern continued to look inside as a Barnhizer drive and dump ending in another Nicholson dunk. Scott sank a long two to keep Maryland within a possession.
Clinging to a 57-54 advantage, Barnhizer knocked down a stepback deuce giving Northwestern a five-point cushion. After Geronimo nailed another corner three for Maryland, Berry answered with a huge wing three, giving a nervous home crowd an influx of energy with under four minutes to go.
With the game at 62-58, Young crafted two more points for the Terrapins, getting Langborg to bite on a shot attempt and sinking both at the stripe. Taking a page from Young, Buie attacked the rim, forcing a Scott foul and going perfect at the line to give the ‘Cats a 64-60 cushion. Undeterred, Young continued to attack the rim, scoring two straight layups to knot things 64-64.
Buie answered, sending his famous touch shot through the cylinder, barely even touching the nylon to put Northwestern up two with a minute left; Yet, Young had a response, shimmying away from heavy Berry pressure from beyond the arc and nailing a step back heave, giving the Terrapins a 67-66 lead.
Rather than waiting till the last shot with the shot clock turned off, Buie sprinted down the court, whisking past Maryland defenders and finishing at the basket to reclaim Northwestern’s lead.
In the battle of the two premier guards, Young — with an opportunity to win it for the Terrapins — came up short on a pull-up free throw jumper, all but ending a thrilling contest. Maryland was forced to foul Berry, who sank two free throws pushing Northwestern to a three-point lead. Playing smartly with the three-point advantage, Northwestern fouled Young who sank two at the line, making it a 70-69 game. Off the inbound, the Terrapins fouled Berry again, and No. 3 connected on both from the line again, closing out a 72-69 victory.
The ‘Cats look to keep the momentum rolling Saturday in Lincoln, with tipoff against the Cornhuskers slated for 1:15 p.m. CT.