#4: Maryland 77, Northwestern 57
November 27, 2012
After narrowly losing to Kentucky and handling the beginning of their cupcake schedule, the 6-0 Northwestern Wildcats were perhaps the only real test left on Maryland's non-conference slate. A win against the Cats was expected, but not guaranteed. There were questions about how the young Terps would handle their first true road test, and with Maryland announcing it's intention to move to the Big Ten the game took on special meaning.
Frustratingly but perhaps expectedly, the Terps struggled early on, getting beat on several backdoor cuts and managing just 28 points by halftime, when they led by two. Alex Len had fared for just four points in the half, and fans' frustrations with the big man were mounting. Where was the Len that had showed up in Brooklyn?
It turned out he wasn't far. After often looking apathetic in the first half, the Terps came out strong in the second, quickly making a statement that this game wasn't going to be one that went down to the wire. And it was Len who led the charge. With his team up two just a couple minutes into the half, he got the ball near the left block, drew three players on a dribble, spun, and dropped in a baby jump shot.
The very next possession, he once again asserted himself on the left block and got the ball, this time taking it straight in past the help man for a slam. Finally, on yet again the next possession he scored, battling through traffic to grab a missed three from Nick Faust before laying it back up.
That third score sparked an 11-1 run for the Terps, and was just the boost the team needed. His six straight Maryland points were the turning point in the game, and while Dez Wells might have stolen headlines with his 23-point performance, Len's influence not only offensively but also defensively (13 rebounds, two blocks) in that game stand out as very significant. He was a leader, bringing just the right amount of flash when needed and providing a veteran presence during a game when many of his teammates were adjusting to playing in an opposing gym for the first time.
Relive Len's mini second-half run, which starts at 0:30 in this highlight video: