By Ben Moskow
In what seems like a worn-out storyline this season, Northwestern Men’s Basketball (6-12, 1-7 B1G) squandered a 14-point halftime lead in a disheartening 77-66 home loss to #17 Maryland (15-4, 5-3 B1G).
The Cats jumped out to a quick 10-0 leadless than four minutes in as Miller Kopp and Pat Spencer traded buckets. Kopp was on fire from long range, knocking down all three of his attempts in the first half. He finished with 16 points and 4 rebounds.
Maryland never let things get too out of hand, as the lead never ballooned higher than 15. Nevertheless, the Terps found themselves down 40-26 at the half, searching for answers.
At risk of losing a 4th consecutive road conference game, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon took matters into his own hands in the locker room: “I told them, ‘We’re going to change our season at halftime, guys.’”
His team responded in the best way possible, exploding for 51 second-half points and limiting Northwestern to just 26 on 9-of-23 shooting in the final period. Maryland shot the lights out from 3, connecting on 8 of 16 attempts, and took advantage of Northwestern’s foul trouble in the second half, shooting 17-19 from the charity stripe.
Maryland F Jalen Smith took over in the second half, scoring 21 of his career-high 25 points and grabbing 9 of his 11 rebounds in the period. But it was the NBA-bound big man’s hustle on a loose ball that impressed his coach the most: “I haven’t seen him dive for a loose ball like that. I didn’t even realize it was [Smith].”
Northwestern hung in there, leading by as many as 10 points with 12:25 to play, but from then on, it was all Terps. Maryland took the lead for good with 5:49 left on two Darryl Morsell free throws and never looked back. A Jalen Smith top-of-the-key three-pointer with 1:57 left served as the icing on the cake, increasing the Terrapin lead to nine.
“We still just have to get to the point where when a team makes a run on us… we’ve got to re-control the momentum of the game.” Northwestern Head Coach Chris Collins said. “We haven’t been able to get it back.”
Spencer, who led Northwestern in scoring with 17 points, added to Collins’ sentiments: “It feels like we give up one of those [7-0, 9-0 runs] in the second half every game.”
Collins credited Maryland’s use of smaller, quicker lineups for the turnaround, where sophomore forward Ricky Lindo Jr., just 6-7, played the 5. The Wildcats, with a four-forward lineup, theoretically had the size advantage, but defending the speedy, guard-heavy Maryland five proved a challenge down the stretch.
G Aaron Wiggins torched the Northwestern zone for five three-pointers. Cowan struggled from the field, shooting just 2-10, but dished out six assists and hit a crucial trey down the stretch.
The Cats will have a few days to recuperate before returning to action this Sunday when they take on Ohio State at home, in search of their second conference win. Make sure to tune in on WNUR Sports!