Late rally falls short for Maryland men’s basketball in 68-61 loss to Northwestern

Late rally falls short for Maryland men’s basketball in 68-61 loss to Northwestern

COLLEGE PARK — At one point during a first-half timeout in Maryland men’s basketball’s 68-61 loss to visiting Northwestern, a trio of Terps fans — presumably students — appeared on the big screen. The one in the middle had a beanie pulled down over his face while his two friends pretended to punch him repeatedly in the gut.

That’s a fairly apt depiction of how the Terps manage to stay in games against lofty foes.

Having trailed Northwestern (20-8, 11-6 Big Ten) by as many as 11 points with four minutes to go Wednesday night, Maryland kept punching. The Terps (15-14, 7-11) shrunk the lead to as few as three in the final two minutes and five in the final 30 seconds.

Not with any inspiring offense, having connected on 2 of 22 3-point attempts while shooting 39% from the field. Coach Kevin Willard could only leave his hands resting at his hips, frustrated as Maryland rimmed out one 3-point attempt after another.

“I thought we got some good open looks early,” the second-year coach said. “What happened with us against Rutgers and a little against Michigan State, we missed some good looks and it affected us the rest of the game.”

Rather with a stifling, Big Ten Conference-best defense that suffocates with its press and blinding double teams. That, and its interior rim-protecting duo of Julian Reese and Jordan Geronimo.

However, the Terps went without a field goal from the 17:23 mark of the first half until 8:54. Then again from 7:18 to 2:45. Scoring droughts spilled into the second half from 10:51 to 7:43. Seventeen of Maryland’s 61 total points came from the free-throw line.

It was Maryland’s defense that kept the team in the game, but its offense that proved its demise.

“We’re ranked fifth in the country,” Willard said of his defense. “I don’t know if it can get much better, to be honest with you. Guys that are [ranked] in front of us, we’re close. It’s like a percentage point. … Just don’t ask me about the offense.”

Add Northwestern to a resume of narrow losses in February that includes Rutgers, Ohio State, Illinois and Wisconsin. Each of those previous four came by two possessions or less.

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After Maryland’s recent win against Rutgers, Willard noted, “We’re like 20 points away from probably being like the 10th team in the country.”

Like he has been all season, Jahmir Young was the beacon of Maryland’s offense, finishing with 24 points and six assists and helping lead an 8-0 charge that cut the deficit to 60-57 with 2:10 to go. Freshman DeShawn Harris-Smith was second with 14 points and five rebounds. Reese, a Baltimore native and St. Frances graduate, chipped in 12 points and five rebounds.

The last time these teams met, it was Wildcats point guard Boo Buie who scored a team-high 20 points, including the eventual winning bucket in a 72-69 victory on Jan. 17. Wednesday, Northwestern got its best scoring output from Nick Martinelli, who finished with a game-high 27 points. Buie added 12 on 4 of 13 shooting. Brooks Barnhizer had a double-double with 14 and 10 rebounds.

“Everyone is fighting this time of year,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “We knew they were gonna go down fighting. They got out in transition. We took care of the ball but we had some empty possessions. … We didn’t give up any 3s so even though they got a couple layups [near the end] we felt like we were in a good position.”

February hasn’t been kind to Maryland, which has been on the precipice of legitimate contention yet unable to get over the hump. The Terps have been held up by wobbling knees and elbows leaning on the ropes, flat-out refusing to mail it in.

Wednesday, they continued to throw every punch in the tank but again came up just short.

Indiana at Maryland

Sunday, 2 p.m.


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