Looking to close out its first undefeated home conference slate since the 2014-15 season, Maryland men’s basketball was in the thick of a relentless offensive war with No. 21 Northwestern.
But the Terps, who entered the game as the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten and the 318th-best in the nation, found something Sunday. Maryland let loose a barrage of triples, dictating the game with excellence in a department that had caused worry throughout the season.
Four Terps hit multiple 3-pointers, including graduate guard Don Carey (4-of-7), graduate guard Jahmir Young (4-of-7), senior guard Hakim Hart (2-of-4) and junior guard Ian Martinez (3-of-3). Maryland finished with 14 made threes — its most in a single game this season — on 63.6% shooting from behind the arc, a spectacle that lifted it to an all-important Big Ten home win.
“Obviously, I mean going 14-for-22 in a conference game, you’re gonna — good things are going to happen,” head coach Kevin Willard said.
Maryland finished Sunday as victors in blowout fashion, defeating Northwestern, 75-59. The Terps seemed like world-beaters at home throughout Big Ten play, and they proved that again against the Wildcats, putting the finishing touches on a remarkable accomplishment for Willard in year one.
This year’s Wildcats have proven that they aren’t your father’s Northwestern team. Northwestern, which is ranked at the latest point in a season in program history, is a lock to head to its second-ever NCAA Tournament in March. Regardless of what happens to end the year, Northwestern will also finish the 2022-23 season with an above-.500 road record for the first time since the 1958-59 season.
On the court, it was a hot start for both teams, and Northwestern clearly wasn’t rattled by the Terps’ third sellout crowd in its last four home games.
Maryland hit three of its first four attempts from 3-point land, but it was Northwestern redshirt senior guard Chase Audige who starred early on Maryland’s senior day. Audige had 10 points by the under-12 media timeout, hurting the Terps from deep and inside.
Northwestern built a 23-18 lead, but the Terps responded with a 7-0 swing to grab the lead. Maryland’s pressure and defensive intensity are a vital part of its winning identity, and while the press was disruptive, it harped on a weaker part of its game to keep pace with the Wildcats.
Maryland entered the game shooting 31.3% from deep but shot a scorching 8-for-11 from three in the first half, highlighted by Carey’s 2-of-3 showing and Young’s 4-of-6 frame.
“I think our defense has created opportunities where we’ve been able to get easier shots,” Willard said. “Like I think we had five threes in transition in today. So when you play at Wisconsin, you don’t get a whole lot of transition threes. When you play at Purdue, you don’t get a whole lot of transition opportunities, just not the way the league’s designed. So at home I think we’ve taken advantage of being aggressive on defense, even though it’s led to some breakdowns, it’s given us opportunities to get some easy threes in transition.”
While Maryland put on a shooting clinic, it led just 41-39 at halftime thanks to Young’s buzzer-beating stepback triple. Northwestern entered the day shooting 40.5% from the field, the worst in the Big Ten, but Maryland could not string together stops. The Wildcats shot 59.3% in the first half, including four made threes.
Maryland’s unbelievable shooting continued, as senior forward Donta Scott and Hart hit Maryland’s first two 3-pointers of the second half. The Terps stretched their lead to 50-43, but an unfazed Northwestern squad did not stop responding.
Lost amid Northwestern’s strong offensive performance was the play of star senior guard Boo Buie. Buie was rendered completely ineffective for the majority of the game, struggling to make an impact and finishing with four points on 1-of-9 shooting three days after scoring a career-high 35.
“If you’re worried about what [defense] they’re in, they can really paralyze you, but they have good quickness, they have good size,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “I thought they were making [Buie] be a passer, and Boo had seven assists at half. I actually credited him, I thought he was playing right. He was getting into the paint and they were making him pass and he had seven assists. Second half, I thought we got a little bit stagnant, the ball stuck a little bit more. And it was obvious, like, they were going to try to take him away.”
Maryland’s press caused the Wildcats more trouble in the second half; the Terps forced five second-half turnovers, which they turned into seven points. Maryland made eight of its first 15 second-half shots, stretching its lead to 64-51 and forcing Collins to burn a timeout with less than nine minutes to play.
Collins’ timeout felt like the proverbial dagger in Northwestern’s chances for a win Sunday, as it was never able to respond nor contain the Terps. As good as the Wildcats were in the first half, they were putrid in the second — scoring just 20 points and shooting 36.8%.
Three things to know
1. Jahmir Young shined on his senior day. No one could have imagined the Charlotte transfer’s success transferring to Maryland as well as it did, but Young capped off his season at the XFINITY Center in incredible fashion. His four 3-pointers were tied for the most he’s made in a single game all season, while his 18 points led the way for the Terps. Young could return for a fifth season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — that speculation will certainly linger over the next few months — but Sunday would mark a special way for the hometown kid to wrap up his campaign in College Park.
2. Maryland was magma-hot from deep. Maryland’s three-point shooting is far from its strongsuit, but Sunday provided an unthinkable reversal of course. Carey had arguably his best game as a Terp, hitting threes when they mattered most and quieting doubters of his cold season. It is hard to imagine Maryland gets a similar three-point output in the future, but a middle ground seems to exist now.
“I think Don’s been our silent leader, just because although he struggled at times, he’s brought the most professional attitude of any player I’ve ever coached,” Willard said of Carey. “He’s stayed with the same attitude, he’s stayed with the same leadership. First guy out on the floor every day before practice getting shots up.”
3. The Terps wrapped up a perfect Big Ten home season. Maryland finished 10-0 at home in Big Ten play for the first time ever; its perfect 2014-15 conference home slate only featured nine games. Maryland came into Sunday with a 58% chance at a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, according to BartTorvik.com, and the victory puts Maryland in a three-way tie with Northwestern and Indiana for second place in the Big Ten.
“Overall, it’s been very rewarding,” Hart said when asked about his Maryland experience. “Because, just like you said, going through all that my years coming up, it’s just been a lot ... It just means a lot to me. We got the fans cheering us on, pushing us, just got to keep going hard for them.”