COLLEGE PARK – What first seemed like an easy victory for the Maryland Terrapins mens’ basketball team dissolved into a nailbiter on Jan. 14 at the Xfinity Center.
The visiting Wisconsin Badgers unleashed a barrage of three-point buckets in the second half, which erased Maryland’s big lead and threatened to snap its five-game winning streak.
The Badgers, encouraged by their second-half success behind the arc and Maryland’s offensive lull, overcame what was a 21-point Terps lead to pull ahead by one point with just two minutes to go.
It was time for Anthony Cowan, Jr., to go to work. There was less than a minute left on the game clock, and the shot clock was almost at zero, when the junior guard set up shop at the top of the key and netted the go-ahead three-point play with apparent ease. Wisconsin’s Nate Reuvers, who had registered four treys in the second half, missed a wide-open game-tying shot, and Maryland (15-3) held on for its sixth consecutive win, 64-60.
Meanwhile, the Badgers, who had started to get a reputation as a road team against Big Ten squads, dropped to 11-6.
“We didn’t execute well enough defensively, which gave them a couple of open looks from the perimeter – which got some momentum going for them,” said Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard. “We’ve got to take what we did well in the second half and eliminate what we didn’t do well in the first half and continue to get better.”
The Maryland defense held the Badgers to just 15 points in the entire first half. The Terps double-teamed and occasionally triple-teamed Wisconsin, which resulted in shot-clock violations and wildly missed shots by the Badgers. Cowan created several turnovers and dashed down the court en route to a game-high 21 points. Terps’ forward Bruno Fernando (10 points) denied Wisconsin guard Kobe King under the basket as he emphatically slapped the ball out of the air and drew a reaction from the Maryland faithful in attendance.
The Terps also contained Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ, who had been averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds per game and was named Big Ten Player of the Week four times this season alone. Happ finished with 10 points and eight rebounds and nearly fouled out after being penalized for the third and fourth time on back-to-back fouls.
Gard pulled Happ from the game after his fourth foul, and Reuvers picked up where Happ left off. The Badgers, who hadn’t scored a single three-pointer in the first half, suddenly couldn’t miss from behind the arc in the second period.
Meanwhile, the Terps’ offense sputtered, and Fernando, who had already earned nine double-doubles this season, found himself on the bench with foul trouble as well.
“We were stagnant all night. I didn’t like the way we finished the first half,” said Terps’ Head Coach Mark Turgeon. “Our defense was off the charts good, but we were a little bit stagnant; we never really got going. They played a really smart game defensively. We play a lot through Bruno, and we didn’t have him. Thank God we had the big lead. We’ve just got to get better on that.”
After Cowan put Maryland back in the lead, Wisconsin forward Brad Davison was penalized twice back to back and fouled out of the game. Both Cowan and guard Darryl Morsell went one-for-two at the free-throw line, but it was just enough to hold the Badgers off, and the Terps were saved by the buzzer.
Prior to Monday’s game, the last two times the Terps clashed with Wisconsin the victor was decided by five points or less. Maryland will be seeing their Big Ten foe again soon, however – this time in Madison on the Badgers’ home court on Feb. 1.
Before that next meeting, though, the Terps have a few more opponents to knock off, starting with the Ohio State Buckeyes this Friday, Jan. 18 in Columbus. The Badgers are set to host the Michigan Wolverines on Jan. 19.