The last time Maryland faced Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, a young Terps team held the lead for much of the game before faltering down the stretch. Two years later, history repeated in itself in a 69-61 loss to the Badgers.
Maryland trailed for just 16 seconds in the first half, but Wisconsin used hot three-point shooting to take the lead with 6:07 remaining and take over down the stretch. Just like the game at Xfinity Center, the Badgers heated up from beyond the arc as the game went on, shooting 6-of-10 (60 percent) in the second half after shooting 3-of-8 (38 percent) in the first. The Terps also struggled to contain Ethan Happ, who had 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and caused Maryland to go into foul trouble.
With Maryland’s bigs sitting on the bench for long stretches of the second half, Eric Ayala powered the Terps’ offense, finishing with a team-high 16 points. Fernando added 13 points and 10 rebounds despite foul trouble, and Anthony Cowan scored 11 and was the final Maryland player in double figures. For Wisconsin, Brad Davison continued to be a thorn in Maryland’s side, finishing with 21 points and hitting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Wisconsin shot just 47 percent from the field compared to 45 percent for Maryland, and shot 9-for-18 from three compared to Maryland’s 8-for-20, but beat the Terps in two key areas. Wisconsin shot 23 free throws compared to eight for Maryland, although both teams struggled, with the Badgers shooting 61 percent compared to 38 percent for the Terps. Maryland also committed 12 turnovers, below their season average, but Wisconsin only turned the ball over a season low four times and scored 21 points off the Terps’ giveaways.
Like the first game between the two teams, Maryland got off to a hot start offensively. The Terps shot 55.6 percent in the first half, and were over 60 percent for much of the opening 20 minutes. Maryland also shot 6-of-10 on three-pointers, getting a huge boost from Ayala. The freshman scored 13 points in the first half, hitting his first five shots from the field.
Both teams went back and forth in the early minutes, but Maryland started to establish some separation in the later stages of the half. It pushed the lead to seven by the under-eight timeout, and extended it to nine with 3:16 remaining in the half on back-to-back threes by Cowan and Ayala. But once again, the Terps failed to close the half strong. Ayala’s three was their last bucket of the half, and a D’Mitrik Trice steal led to a Brevin Pritzl three that cut Maryland’s lead to 36-31 heading into the locker room.
The first few minutes of the second half, went as poorly as it could have for the Terps. Fernando picked up his second and third foul in a span of 27 seconds, and Jalen Smith joined him on the bench six seconds later with 17:02 remaining in the first half. Happ was in the middle of a 7-0 run at that point, which included him tying the game at 40 on a free throw with 16:39 to go.
Maryland was forced to play both Joshua Tomaic and Ricky Lindo in the front court, but with a rare zone defense, held Wisconsin scoreless for more than four minutes. A huge three from Ayala gave Maryland the lead back with 13:41 to go. The Terps pushed the lead to six with a five-point mini-run, but back-to-back threes from Pritzl and Davison tied the game with 10:23 remaining.
Maryland scored the next four points to take the lead, only for the Badgers to once again respond with back-to-back threes. A layup by Fernando gave the Terps a 55-54 lead with 4:58 to go, but another three from Davison on the other end gave Wisconsin the lead for good. Fernando’s shot was Maryland’s last field goal for 3:54, and the game was basically out of reach by the time the Terps found the bucket again.
The Terps will be back in action Wednesday night when they travel to face a desperate Nebraska team.
Three things to know
1. Wisconsin heated up on three-pointers again in the second half. Once again, Wisconsin got hot when it mattered. The Badgers were six-of-nine from beyond the arc over the final 20 minutes, and instead of getting back into a near blowout, used them to put Mayland away.
2. Eric Ayala had a big offensive night. The freshman has mainly been a facilitator with a solid three-point shot this year, but carried the offense for stretches Friday night. He hit his first five shots from the field, and hit a big three in the second half when Maryland desperately needed one. He’s shown flashes of a solid offensive game, including a nice mid-range jumper multiple times in the second half.
3. Maryland didn’t shoot a lot of free throws, and couldn’t capitalize when it did. The Terps shot just eight free throws compared to 23 for Wisconsin, and only went 3-for-8 in their worst performance of the season from the foul line. Four of the five misses came down the stretch when the Badgers were starting to take over the game.