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Maryland men’s basketball handles Wisconsin, 73-55

A balanced offensive display kept the Terps perfect at home in Big Ten play.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With Maryland men’s basketball clinging onto a six-point lead early in the second half, the Terps continuously fed their hungry big: Julian Reese. Reese hammered home two dunks and a layup to score six straight for Maryland to extend its lead to double digits, one it would not relinquish in a 73-55 handling of Wisconsin in College Park Wednesday night.

Reese, who followed up a career-best performance against Purdue with a 14-point game against Wisconsin, has emerged as a dangerous big in a conference full of them, a welcome sight after a difficult stretch earlier in conference play.

“I think you need to put Juju in the conversation of being one of the best five-men in this league right now,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said following the win.

Reese wasn't the only star who showed up. Maryland had four players in double figures, led by Jahmir Young, who finished with 22 points. Donta Scott and Hakim Hart each chipped in 14 and 13, respectively.

Maryland moved to 4-5 in the Big Ten and continued its dominance at home, while Wisconsin now also sits at 4-5. Maryland is 10-1 overall at home and 4-0 in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin, which last played on Monday at Northwestern due to a COVID scheduling issue, was playing back-to-back conference road games with just one day of rest for the first time since 2006.

Despite that, the Badgers came out as the aggressors, taking an early 4-0 lead. In a rare sight for a Maryland game this season, it was all offense for both sides in the early going.

The Terps started 2-for-2 from three courtesy of Scott and Young. Six minutes in, the game — which resembled a track meet with the pace both teams were playing at — was tied at 14 apiece.

The hot start and fast pace settled with Maryland leading by one halfway through the first half. Maryland and Wisconsin each went on scoring droughts spanning over four minutes, dipping the unattainable shooting numbers to more pedestrian ones both groups have grown accustomed to.

Directly following Reese’s best game as a Terp — where he scored 19 at Purdue on Sunday — he remained aggressive against a Badgers team featuring a prominent frontcourt of Tyler Wahl and Steven Crowl. Willard and his staff rewarded Reese’s aggression with more designed post touches.

With Maryland trailing by three with six minutes to go in the first half, it exploded on a 12-0 run to take a nine-point lead.

It looked like Maryland was going to head back to the locker room with a sizable advantage, but Wisconsin countered with a 5-0 run of its own in the final two minutes. Maryland entered the break with a 32-28 lead.

Wisconsin had no answers for Maryland’s dribble-drive offense. Maryland’s guards consistently blew by Wisconsin’s defenders to get in the lane and either finished themselves or fed an open Reese.

“It makes us very hard to guard,” Hart said, “I feel like teams don’t have an answer for us when we’re all clicking.”

Wisconsin looked like a team that was on the road the last three days, struggling to handle the Terps’ pressure and seemingly running out of gas.

Behind a raucous XFINITY Center crowd with students back on campus for the first time since the new year, Maryland took an 11-point lead six minutes into the second half.

“This building, especially when the students are in it, is electric,” Willard said. “This is a real, true home court advantage.”

Maryland used a balanced scoring attack to never let Wisconsin back in the game. Maryland is the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the conference, but it sure didn’t look like it Wednesday. Maryland shot 43% from three, its best mark since it played Miami back on Nov. 22.

Maryland will finish a critical three-game home stretch with games against Nebraska on Saturday and Indiana on Tuesday.

Three things to know

1. Maryland’s stars carried it to a win. It’s no secret Maryland is at its best when its stars are playing their best, and its offensive prowess starts with Jahmir Young and Donta Scott. Young has been phenomenal for the Terps but shot just 4-for-18 from the field against Purdue. He was back to himself against the Badgers, scoring 22 points and making his first three in the last three games. Scott has had a rollercoaster season, with more highs than lows in recent weeks. On Wednesday, he looked like the guy that Willard once said could average 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. Scott finished with 14 points and drilled two threes for the second time in eight games.

2. Maryland dominated in the paint. For a poor 3-point shooting team like Maryland, it has no choice but to score in the paint. While that may seem like a challenge for a team that lacks size, it has proved it can battle in the paint against great bigs. On Sunday, Maryland only scored two fewer points in the paint than Purdue, which has the best big man in the country in Zach Edey. Maryland outscored Wisconsin in the paint, 38-22, leading to a win.

3. Maryland got a positive result in its first game of three-game home stretch. Maryland has yet to lose a Big Ten home game this season (4-0). For a team that’s seriously struggled on the road — 0-5 in conference play — it’s essential for the Terps to take care of home court, which they have done thus far. Wednesday’s game was the start of a three-game home stretch that could catapult the Terps back to .500, or even above .500, in conference play. Now 4-5 in the conference, Maryland hosts Nebraska and Indiana in the next week.

“Being home is nice, man,” Willard said. “We played five really good teams on the road.”