The Terps (9-8, 3-7 Big Ten) suffered a 38-20 deficit during the break before making an impressive turnaround. Maryland cut the lead to three points at 11:45, but never got any closer. The Badgers (13-4, 7-3) responded and reclaimed their double-digit pillow. The Terps made one final push to withdraw within seven minutes, within seven minutes, but they missed shots on the spot during two consecutive possessions and Wisconsin sealed the victory.
Micah Potter, a red shirt striker, led Wisconsin with 23 points and 12 rebounds, giving his team the boost it needed when the terps threatened. Wisconsin haven’t made a basket in the last seven minutes of play, but during Wisconsin’s 11-0 run that preceded that goal drought, the Terps made sales on three direct properties after drawing to four.
Maryland only had nine turnovers in the game, “but three or four of them were just the worst time for us,” said coach Mark Turgeon, “that makes it difficult.”
“I don’t think we played great,” Turgeon continued. “We missed open shots and had a bad three-minute distance before half and made a few defensive mistakes in the second half. That’s all they needed by an 18-point lead. But we fought to the end. “
Junior Guard Aaron Wiggins led the late rise in the terps, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the second half. He played with aggressiveness and confidence – the version of himself that doesn’t always come up, but that Maryland desperately needs. Second striker Donta Scott contributed 13 points, but Maryland’s early troubles cost the Terps a chance to upgrade their résumé for the NCAA tournament. The junior guard Eric Ayala, who leads the Terps in the standings, finished the 1: 10 shooting with only four points.
“We just have to have more people who play better,” said Turgeon.
The Terrapins have beaten three ranked teams on the road – including a win in Wisconsin on December 28 – but Maryland hasn’t won a conference game at home.
The Terrapins’ abysmal offense set them to fail at the start of Wednesday’s game, despite their good looks. Maryland started the game by missing its first nine shots from within three-point range. The drought didn’t end until Scott hit a three-pointer about three minutes before half-time. After Wisconsin contested the undersized terps in the color, Maryland had to settle for three and shot a sad 2:14 in the first half before ending at 9:30 from a distance against Wisconsin’s strong defense.
Despite these shooting problems, the Terps’ hopes did not immediately fade. Maryland’s defense kept the game from breaking up prematurely. The Badgers, who finished third in the nation on Wednesday with just 8.4 sales per game, posted five first-half sales en route to close at 12.
Maryland was eight points behind after Senior Guard Darryl Morsell made two free throws 3:40 in the first half, but Wisconsin took control to extend their 18-point lead at halftime. Potter, who scored just four points in December, has been fueling the Badgers from early Wednesday, scoring 14 of his points in the first half.
“I’ll say the obvious: we really lost the game just before half-time,” said Turgeon.
The Terps opened the second half with three hands in a row from Wiggins and Hakim Hart, reversing the trend from earlier in the game. Paired with his bench in the empty arena, Maryland combined that breakout with a solid defense that didn’t allow the Badgers to score halfway on their first five holdings. Maryland’s 11-2 run reduced its deficit to single digits, and the gap eventually narrowed to three when Wiggins made a jumper at 11:45.
But after that, “we just stopped guarding,” said Wiggins. “We lost a bit of effort on the defensive and started walking with them shot after shot instead of trying to get more stops and continue doing so on the defensive. Because if our offensive doesn’t work, our defense will keep us in the game. “
In response to Maryland’s surge, Potter scored nine points over a two-minute stretch, and by completing that boost with a three-pointer, the Badgers’ advantage was back to 15. Maryland’s brief optimism glimmered to another Big Ten loss at home.