Jahmir Young hobbled to the bench on two different occasions early in the game. In the second half, the reining Big Ten Player of the Week took over. But so did Northwestern’s leading scorer, Boo Buie.
The spectacular duo scored 17 of the game’s final 21 points.
“Buie and Jahmir, I mean they just went head to head,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said. “Jahmir was phenomenal, just absolutely phenomenal.”
Maryland’s star hit a contested 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to give Maryland men’s basketball a one-point lead, but Buie responded immediately with a drive to the hoop. Young’s ensuing jumper missed wide left, and the Wildcats nailed their remaining four free throws to seal a 72-69 victory.
“We gave ourselves a chance to have a shot to win it, and that’s all you can ask for on the road against a very good basketball team,” Willard added.
Young finished the game with 36 points.
With the result, Maryland has now lost its last two road conference games by a combined six points.
Seldom is Maryland’s shooting not the offense’s biggest problem. In the first half, the Terps shot the ball quite well (12-of-23), but their attempts from the field were severely limited.
They committed 10 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, which Northwestern turned into nine points. Guard Brooks Barnhizer had four steals in the half, and contributed 11 points on the offensive end.
Maryland also couldn’t get to the free-throw line, an area which has provided them with plenty of points this season. Fortunately for the Terps, 3-pointers fell, with Donta Scott making all three of his attempts. However, Scott took two early fouls, limiting him to just nine minutes in the half.
Jordan Geronimo, who was active on both ends, added a triple of his own. Geronimo finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
“Jordan is much more comfortable than he was at the beginning of the year,” Willard said.
Willard’s squad had chances to extend a slim lead shortly past the halfway point of the period, but lost possessions allowed the Wildcats to keep it close and eventually go on an 8-0 run to take a 28-23 lead.
Maryland’s defense, which ultimately held Northwestern to a poor 36 percent clip from the field in the opening half, lapsed in the final few seconds, allowing Buie to storm down the court and bury an uncontested floater, giving the home side a four-point advantage at the break.
Both coaches were visibly frustrated at the lack of foul calls on their respective teams throughout the first 20 minutes, during which there were only a combined 13 calls. Their pleas must have been heard, because both squads were in the bonus not even nine minutes into the second half. And it affected the rest of the game.
Tied at 45, three consecutive fouls on Maryland allowed Northwestern to pull ahead by five, but then the Terps received a few attempts of their own, and the score was brought back to within two. The teams shot a combined 38 free throws in the second half, there were just two in the first 20 minutes.
When asked if the physicality was ramped up in the second half, Willard said, “I don’t know. I wasn’t calling the game.”
Unfortunately for Maryland, Young received little help from his teammates as the game drew on. He scored 28 of the team’s 41 second-half points, with DeShawn Harris-Smith and Jahari Long finishing the game with zero points each.
“The execution down the stretch was just not good,” said Willard.
Northwestern’s bench outscored Maryland’s, 15-0.
Three things to know
1. Jahmir Young was spectacular... again. The fifth-year guard is making a strong case to be an All-American. He’s scored over 20 points in six of the last seven games, and single-handily willed Maryland into a close result Wednesday. He finished 12-of-19 from the field and 11-of-11 from the free-throw line, but he’s going to need some help if the Terps have postseason aspirations.
2. Maryland’s other guards struggled. As mentioned above, Harris-Smith and Long each finished with zero points. Jamie Kaiser and Noah Batchelor, who play the 2/3 position, also went scoreless. Only four Terps scored Wednesday.
Long and Harris-Smith also notably struggled defensively, begging the question further: Can Jahmir Young sustain his play without much support?
3. A massive opportunity squandered. The Terps finished a missed bucket away from a perfect road trip and wins against two of the top-3 teams in the conference. Instead, they’ll head home wondering what could have been.