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Maryland basketball falls to Wisconsin in first Big Ten tournament game, 59-54

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It’s another one-and-done performance for the Terps in the conference tournament.

Maryland basketball Wisconsin Big Ten tournament Anthony Cowan Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

NEW YORK — Maryland basketball’s involvement in the Big Ten tournament is over after one game, as the Terps fell 59-54 to Wisconsin on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

The battle of the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds was tightly contested throughout, although the level of play was as middling as the seedings would suggest. Wisconsin spent most of the afternoon holding a slim lead, with Maryland trying and failing to pull ahead. The Terps eventually tied the game four different times in the final 4:18, but never led, and sophomore guard Brevin Pritzl knocked in the go-ahead bucket with just over 30 seconds left to lift the Badgers on top.

Maryland leaned heavily on its three best players, but that wasn’t enough. Kevin Huerter led all scorers with 20 points, while Anthony Cowan Jr. and Bruno Fernando chipped in 16 and 12, respectively. Huerter scored the Terps’ final seven points, but his missed free throw in the final 10 seconds couldn’t be overcome. Ethan Happ led four Badgers in double figures with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Both teams were cold offensively in the first half, combining to make just one of their 16 combined three-point attempts before knocking down two late. Wisconsin went over nine minutes without a field goal and still led at halftime. The pace was slow and the nets were far quieter than the rims.

What scoring there was went back-and-forth early on, although Wisconsin led more often than not and held a lead as large as seven. Maryland went on a slow and steady 6-0 run over four minutes to trim that to one, but it got back up to five before Cowan drained Maryland’s first three of the afternoon at the 2:11 mark and then gave the Terps the lead with a three-point play almost a minute later. But the Badgers hit two free throws and knocked down a three to take a 28-26 lead into halftime.

Five quick Wisconsin points forced a Maryland timeout just 90 seconds into the second half, as the margin was back to seven. It never got higher than that, though, as the Terps spent the next 14 minutes knocking on the door. Fernando finally knotted the score at 47 with 4:18 remaining, and Huerter answered after Wisconsin took the lead three separate times. It was 53-53 with 1:22 to play.

Wisconsin’s ensuing possession included a pair of offensive rebounds, and Pritzl’s jumper from the top of the key gave the Badgers a two-point lead with 30.6 seconds left. Huerter went to the line with 9.2 on the clock, but missed his first free throw before making the second. Two Brad Davison free throws made it a three-point game, and a Maryland turnover on an inbounds play was the final dagger.

Three things to know

1. It’s another short conference tournament stint. Maryland went one-and-done as the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten tournament last season, falling in the quarterfinals in front of essentially a home crowd. This year’s Terps couldn’t even make it to Friday, as this loss comes in the 8/9 matchup. It was another close loss in a season full of them.

2. Both teams were cold, but Maryland couldn’t take advantage. The Terps shot 44 percent to Wisconsin’s 36 percent from the field, and neither team could buy a three-point bucket, even in such a busy economic city. Ultimately, Wisconsin’s 15-2 advantage in points off turnovers—despite only winning the turnover battle 12-7—was enough to make the difference, alongside some key offensive rebounds.

3. Now it’s time to wait 10 days to hear what’s next. Maryland has been out of the running for an at-large bid for a while now, and the slim hopes of capturing a tournament crown this weekend are already dashed. The Terps are expected to be in the NIT field, although seeding for that is tough to gauge right now. If they’re in the top half of seeds, they’ll host at least one postseason game, and given how Senior Day went, another chance in front of the Xfinity Center crowd would be welcome.