Maryland men’s basketball took care of business Wednesday night, marching past Wisconsin to the tune of a 73-55 blowout win.
Head coach Kevin Willard’s Terps kept their home conference record perfect and improved to 10-1 overall at XFINITY Center this season. Maryland put on an offensive clinic en route to the win, avenging its Dec. 6 five-point loss at Wisconsin.
Let’s dive right into the takeaways.
Jahmir Young in Big Ten home games is one of the best players of the country.
It’s hard to believe it took Young three years to get to the high-major level. It’s even harder to fathom where Maryland would be without him.
Clearly Maryland’s best player through 20 games, the graduate guard has done more than just put on for his hometown team. He’s scored at least 20 points in each of the Terps’ four conference home games for an average of 25.5 points per game. He’s also shooting 47.2% from the field in those games.
“I love this building, I love the atmosphere,” Young said. “But I mean my teammates setting a screen for me and getting me open, it’s all credit to them, to be honest with you. And just really just trying to do what we can to win and really just being aggressive on both ends of the floor.”
On Wednesday night, Young scored a game-high 22 points in 37 minutes to lead one of the Terps’ most balanced offensive attacks all season (more on that below). He also dished out five assists and grabbed eight rebounds. Though he stands just 6-foot-1, Young crashes the glass with a purpose at all times; his 5.1 rebounds per game rank third on the team.
As Maryland goes through the ups and downs of a Big Ten schedule, Young has become more comfortable not only playing, but thriving in one of the nation’s premier leagues.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is, I think he, not only he’s gotten used to the league, I think he’s gotten in good enough shape where the way we’re playing that his second wind is coming really quick,” Willard said. “He doesn’t need, like I don’t even think he needs to come out at times. So I think he’s gotten in great shape. I think he’s gotten comfortable with the size, the length. I think he’s got much more comfortable with the offense. But I think more than anything, yes, he’s gotten much more comfortable with the physicality and the length of the league.”
Donta Scott, Julian Reese and Hakim Hart joined Young to provide necessary offensive balance.
In addition to another monster Young performance, Scott, Reese and Hart all stepped up.
Scott, who has dealt with a gauntlet of fantastic power forwards in the Big Ten, was the better player between he and Wisconsin 6-foot-9 senior forward Tyler Wahl on Wednesday. He scored 14 points, grabbed 11 boards and shot 5-of-9 from the field (2-of-3 from 3-point range). He recorded a 153 offensive rating — a KenPom.com measurement of personal offensive efficiency — his best since Nov. 20 against Miami and his third-best rating all season.
Scott’s frontcourt mate, Reese, has grown leaps and bounds since the start of Big Ten play. Reese oftentimes struggled against the physicality of the Big Ten, getting into foul trouble and being rendered ineffective against tougher bigs. A late December shoulder injury also inhibited his potential and perhaps his confidence. But Reese remarked Tuesday that his confidence is growing each game, and it turned into another spectacular outing Wednesday after a career-best performance against Purdue and national player of the year frontrunner Zach Edey; he finished with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting against Wisconsin. Reese only played 23 minutes due to foul trouble in the second half, but it was never a game-jeopardizing issue.
Hart, the final cog to the Terps’ top offensive quartet, scored 13 points and dished out eight assists against the Badgers. Hart’s 3-point jumper hasn’t been a game-changer — he hasn’t hit multiple triples since Dec. 2, when he made five against Illinois — but his impact was felt both Wednesday and in last Sunday’s near-upset at Purdue.
When Maryland’s top four scorers all contribute like they did Wednesday, the complexion of the team changes. At so many points throughout Big Ten play, offense has felt like a struggle — it did Wednesday during a scoring drought lasting six minutes and 31 seconds as well. But the balance between Maryland’s stars is a welcomed trend.
“I feel like it’s very important because it makes us really hard to guard,” Hart said when asked about scoring balance. “I feel like teams don’t have an answer for us when we’re all clicking.”
Following Maryland’s last two home games, opposing coaches have told the media that Maryland was the more aggressive team. Getting back home has seemed to be a recipe for success for the Terps, who make more shots and therefore set up their press, which is such a massive part of their winning identity.
“Big thing for me is when you play those back-to-back teams ... doubles, you got to get a split. You know, go on the road, you lose. You come home, you really got to get a split. That makes up for a lot,” Willard said. “And I don’t think Wisconsin didn’t see our pressure the way they saw it at home. Obviously Michigan didn’t see it because I don’t think we scored the whole first half. So it was important for us to kind of, again, we scored early, we’re able to get to the press, we’re able to kind of do what we went to do. On the road, we just haven’t been able to do that.”
The Terps scorched the stat sheet to the tune of 1.28 points per possession, per KenPom — an even better 1.327, per StatBroadcast — their most since Nov. 25 against Coppin State and third-highest KenPom average all season.
Maryland shot 56% from the field and 42.9% from deep against Wisconsin, a performance that will be hard to top the remainder of the season. However, the balance and efficiency can provide a winning recipe moving forward.
Maryland’s win was an important start to a crucial stretch.
For Maryland to hear its name called as one of the 36 at-large teams selected to participate in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, it has to hold serve at home.
The Terps have grown up on the road, improving from a 35-point loss at Michigan to just a three-point loss at now-No. 1 Purdue in just three weeks. Still, there is no section for moral victories on the team sheets that the selection committee will refer to in the days leading up to March 12. A conference road win will likely need to happen in the season’s final month and change, but protecting home court is first and foremost.
Maryland did exactly that Wednesday, picking up a game that was as equally a must-win as it was a can’t-lose. A home victory over Wisconsin only counts as a quadrant two win, but avoiding those losses at home is crucial as well.
The schedule opens up for the Terps at the end of this month and the start of February, where they will subsequently finish up a three-game homestand with a matchup against an inferior Nebraska team Saturday and an inconsistent Indiana squad next Tuesday. Following that, Maryland will head to Minnesota to take on the Golden Gophers — the worst team in the Big Ten — on Feb. 4.
Maryland has a golden opportunity to get to a .500-or-above record in league play during this upcoming stretch, one that could murmur the doubts from December and the first chunk of January. Life in the Big Ten is an arduous course for teams fighting for postseason position, but a final conference record of 10-10 would in all likelihood put the Terps on the right side of the bubble.