For Maryland, the start to Sunday night's game against Northwestern was all too familiar. The Wildcats appeared to be a step ahead of Maryland's players when running their offense, converting easy layups and making open threes. The Terps weren't executing when they had the ball on their end of the court. And with just over ten minutes remaining in the first half, Sanjay Lumpkin hit a three that gave Northwestern a 12 point lead, 25-13. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon had to quickly call a 30 second timeout and you could almost hear the collective groans coming from the crowd at the XFINITY Center, as the game was unfolding in an eerily similar way to the Indiana loss last Thursday.
"You have to give Northwestern credit, but we were out of it defensively and rushing on offense," Turgeon said following the game.
The Terps twice cut the Northwestern lead to five, but they couldn't slow down the hot shooting Wildcats, who converted just under 70% of their attempts from the floor in the game's first 20 minutes. Maryland's deficit ballooned as high as 14, but was down to eleven by halftime. if they wanted to win this game, the Terps were going to have to play better defense against Northwestern and be more aggressive and efficient on offense.
"We were at a loss defensively the first half," Turgeon said. "We really worked hard to try and break down Northwestern's plays but we were just not alert and not very good. Northwestern is a heck of a basketball team that is extremely well-coached, and that is playing with great confidence. They were great tonight and we were fortunate to win."
As the second half began, Maryland quickly cut Northwestern's lead down to six by attacking the basket, drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. The crowd at the XFINITY Center had come back to life, sensing that the Terps were on the verge of taking over the game and ending Northwestern's upset bid. But three and a half minutes later, Northwestern completed an 8-0 run that once again gave them a 14 point lead.
Maryland kept chipping away and pulling within a few possessions of the Wildcats, but Northwestern seemed to have an answer each time the Terps tried to go on a run. Northwestern's Bryant McIntosh was often the catalyst for those Northwestern runs, as the freshman guard finished the game with 21 points on 10/14 shooting.
"That kid is a brilliant player for a freshman," Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said when asked about his freshman guard.
With just under five minutes remaining in the game, Maryland found themselves down by 11, 63-52. That's when everything began to change for Maryland.
Melo Trimble drove to the basket, made the layup and got fouled. He quickly went to the line and sank the free throw, cutting Maryland's deficit to eight.
On the defensive side of the ball, Mark Turgeon had his team implement a full court press in the second half and during the game's final minutes, Maryland forced Northwestern to commit several turnovers. You could see the Maryland players exerting every ounce of energy they had as they ran across the court, trying to trap players as they received the ball.
"They are really active, they have good length," Collins said when asked about Maryland's press. "The crowd was behind them and they were able to force a few turnovers there."
"Our intensity on our defense, it is not really a good thing to only bring in the last four minutes, but we locked up and our press helped us a lot forcing turnovers in the end," junior Jake Layman said following the game.
The Terps kept scoring and getting stops on defense. Layman hit a huge three and Trimble converted a layup shortly after to cut the lead to one. Shortly after, a foul on McIntosh sent Trimble to the line. The freshman hit both as jf he was a senior having been in this situation hundreds of times. Maryland had their first lead of the game.
But Northwestern wasn't going quietly into the night. The Wildcats' Tre Demps hit a mid-range jumper to give his team a one point lead with just eight seconds remaining. Maryland, out of timeouts, inbounded the ball to Trimble, who set up at the top of the key and put up a three. As it hit the rim, it appeared it was going in, but it raddled out. Fortunately for Maryland, it landed in the hands of senior Dez Wells, who caught it and used the glass for a put-back shot that ended up being the game winner for the Terps.
"I didn't like the shot that Melo Trimble took but Dez does what Dez does," Turgeon said. "Dez was upset that he let Tre Demps score on him so he was going to get to that ball. We almost had to be perfect after the last media timeout, and we were pretty close to that."
The Terps know they can overcome adversity and find ways to win. They've been doing it all season.
"We were thinking we are down 11 with only three minutes left, we have never come back from a deficit like that but Coach Turgeon was really confident in us and asked us if we wanted to win and we said yes," Trimble said after the game. "That's what we did. We believed and we came back and won."
While they've shown they can come back to win, Mark Turgeon is hopeful that this experience reinforced to his team that there are no easy games remaining on their schedule. They can't settle for sloppy play and not giving maximum effort on defense.
"They know that we have work to do; there's obviously no bad teams in this league," Turgeon said. "Every night is going to be a battle for us because we aren't a team that can just show up and beat teams. But you have to win games like this to have a great year."