Coming off of an embarrassing loss to Michigan on senior day, the Maryland Terrapins were tasked with winning four games in four consecutive days if they wanted to make it back to the NCAA tournament for the fourth year in a row.
As the #9 seed in the Big Ten, Maryland was set to face off against Wisconsin on Thursday. When these teams met earlier in the year, the Terps were able to walk away with a 68-63 win. The Terps looked to do the same on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. Mark Turgeon’s team played with a lot of energy and speed for almost the entire forty minutes but in the end, the Badgers picked up the crucial baskets in crunch time to secure a 59-54 win and a date with Michigan State on Friday.
Depth concerns have circled around Maryland for months now. In that time, a lot of close games have been lost by the Terps and changes clearly needed to be made if they were going to turn things around. The teams scoring leaders, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, helped with this by stepping out of the spotlight in a few games down the stretch. However, with their season on the line, the two knew they had to show up on Thursday in order to get the Terps into the next round.
Cowan and Huerter jump started the Terps offense by being involved in the teams first 16 points. Through the first 12 minutes of play, the sophomore duo either scored or assisted every Maryland basket. As the game continued the two would not shy away from their leadership roles. Cowan scored 16 and was dominate in transition, helping to keep the Terps on pace with the Badgers. Huerter led the team with 20 points while shooting 8-15 from the field.
To give you an idea of what kind of game this was, consider this. Both teams combined to make just five three pointers in the entire game but didn’t seem too concerned with that. Transition play and rebounding were the real keys to each teams success. As expected, Ethan Happ gave Maryland some trouble under the basket. The junior forward led the Badgers with 14 points and seven rebounds.
After holding a 28-26 advantage at halftime, the Badgers were able to hold on to their lead by getting to the foul line. Wisconsin went 20-24 at the line while the Terps only had nine opportunities for free points. Throw in a 12-7 turnover disadvantage and you can see what led to the Terps downfall.
Despite this, Maryland was right in the game right up until the final seconds expired off the clock. With under 10 seconds to play, Huerter tried driving to the rim for the tying score but ended up getting fouled in the process. The Terps needed him to sink two but an extended stoppage in play before the shot attempts seemed to bother Huerter as he missed the front half of the free throws.
The Badgers spent a lot of time changing player positions in the paint prior to the free throw attempts and the refs allowed them to do so while Huerter was forced to stand their and wait. Before taking the first shot, cameras showed the sophomore clapping and asking the ref for the ball with a frustrated look on his face.
After this miss, the Badgers were able to sink their free throws and take a three-point lead before forcing a turnover and putting the game on ice. This marks the fourth time in the past eight years that the Terps have missed the NCAA tournament. They have also only made the NIT once under Mark Turgeon. Their future is still up in the air after failing to finish above .500 in conference play and then making an early exit from the Big Ten tourney.
We will be here for any potential games left this season for the Maryland Terrapins. Thank you for reading and following the team with us. Lets hope for a more exciting and injury free season in 2018-19.
Image credit: Mary Altaffer / AP