After getting off to another slow start, Maryland found themselves down for a majority of the first half. Wisconsin has had a very rough season and came into this one as underdogs but their defense was on point and clearly surprised the Terps. They also knew that the Terps would be playing without their starting center, Michael Cekovsky, and used that to their advantage. The Badgers went after Maryland’s big men and picked up a lot of second chance point opportunities with a handful of offensive boards.
The Terps would not stay down for long though. Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter helped fuel an 11-0 run at the end of the first half that gave them a 33-23 lead at the break. With just seconds remaining Cowan timed a Wisconsin pass very well and came up with a break away steal to cap off the run.
Wisconsin was chased off the court at the end of the first half but they stuck to their game plan and continued to play a very stout defense in the second half. Stopping Maryland’s offense would only get them so far though. The Badgers needed a big performance from their junior forward, Ethan Happ to get back in the game and they got just that. Happ jump started the Badgers with six points in the first few minutes of the second half and finished the afternoon with 18.
Down the stretch Wisconsin was forced to sit Happ after he picked up his third foul. Despite having their best player on the bench, the Badgers were able to slow the game down to their pace and make it a very close game. The final ten minutes were filled with plenty of foul calls, forcing the game to move at a grueling pace. Overall it was a typical Big Ten game but this pace change definitely benefited the Badgers more than the Terps.
With the game coming down to defense and free throws the Terps were able to dig deep and grind it out despite playing a very flawed game. Just like the first half, Cowan and Huerter were the go to guys and that made the difference for Maryland in crunch time. The sophomore duo finished with 23 and 19 points respectively, making six free throws each.
Nobody else scored in double digits for Maryland but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some quality performances. Sean Obi, of all people, was called upon to pick up a hefty amount of minutes with Cekovsky on the bench. The senior transfer from Duke has averaged just 1.6 points per game this year but his defense was on full display in Sunday’s win against Wisconsin. Obi was able to stifle the Badgers big men and rack up six rebounds in his time on the court. He even came through with three points thanks to a smooth and-one opportunity in the first half.
Bruno Fernando only finished with six points but his energy was essential to Maryland’s win. The freshman was tested all afternoon, especially by Happ, but kept his composure. Fernando finished with nine rebounds and few flashy offensive plays to get the home crowd hyped up.
We all know that the Terps season has been in free fall since losing three key players to injury. Sunday’s win was far from a good one but a loss would have probably ended their hopes of a tournament appearance. For a Terps team with a 14-2 home record, Wisconsin got a little too close for comfort but Mark Turgeon’s team should only be focused on the road ahead at this point.
Maryland will travel to Penn State on Wednesday for their second meeting with the Nittany Lions this year. When these two teams squared off back in early January, Maryland was able to win 75-69. Penn State always seems to give the Terps trouble and I expect this Wednesday to be no different.
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