With under two minutes to play against Maryland men’s basketball, Wisconsin turned to senior guard D’Mitrik Trice to try to cut into its three-point deficit on its home floor. Trice tried to go to the rim, but was tightly defended by senior Maryland guard Darryl Morsell, and the miss falling into the hands of sophomore forward Donta Scott.
With an opportunity to put his team up five, Scott took it upon himself to put this one away. After receiving a pass from a double-teamed Aaron Wiggins, Scott pump-faked a defender closing out and dove toward the rim. Despite three defenders converging on him, the sophomore rose above all and threw down a monstrous two-handed slam, giving Maryland a five-point cushion with 57 seconds remaining.
Though it remained close until the final buzzer, Maryland largely coasted to a 70-64 upset victory over the No. 6 Badgers from there for its first win over a top-10 team since defeating No. 3 Iowa on Jan. 28, 2016.
“We’ve gotten so much better since the Clemson game [a few weeks ago], and we just get a little bit better every game, we get a little bit tougher,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “And it finally all came together tonight.”
Coming into the contest as 9.5-point underdogs, the Terps took the floor in Madison looking to prove themselves against a team they shared the Big Ten title with last season. The Badgers had preserved their success in 2020-21, but Maryland couldn’t say the same, off to a 0-2 start in conference play with a 5-3 overall record.
But the Terps entered confident for a close battle throughout, with the Monday night contest tied six times with 10 lead changes.
With the Badgers rolling out four different three-point shooters averaging more than 40% per game to begin the action the Terps were aggressive in their perimeter defensive efforts, switching on all screens to force Wisconsin into a 1-for-6 start from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc.
And even as each side began to dip into their respective benches, the Maryland’s defense stayed intact at all three levels. Chol Marial, having capably defended against Purdue’s duo of scoring-centric big men three days prior, was faced a steep task in stopping the likes of Badgers Nate Reuvers and Tyler Wahl.
Marial was once again up to the challenge, giving way at times at the post but sending back anything his opponents threw up at the rim. Just under five minutes into Monday’s contest, Marial was backed down by Badger forward Micah Potter all the way to the low block. But just as he went up for the baby hook, Marial rose up and got a finger tip to his shot attempt.
On the following possession, Marial received a pass on the wing and immediately fired, knocking down a long two to put Maryland up 8-4 at the 14:36 mark to get his teammates on the sidelines up on their feet.
Potter, Wisconsin’s leading scorer, went on to begin the game shooting 1-of-5 from the field, struggling to get to his spots thanks to Maryland’s defensive intensity.
But Marial soon picked up two personal fouls, sending him to the bench for the remainder of the half to only play three minutes in the opening period.
Fouls proved to be an issue for Maryland, with Hakim Hart and Jairus Hamilton also picking up a pair each to give Turgeon pause in subbing them back into the game. Committing fouls both near and away from the rim in the first half, Maryland allowed for the Badgers (a team who shoots 77% from the free throw line) to parade to the charity stripe.
However, the Badgers uncharacteristically weren’t able to make the Terps pay, converting on just eight of 21 attempts. They ended the contest 24-for-55 from the floor.
Offensively, the Terps utilized a balanced attack each time down the floor, moving the ball quickly around the floor to force constant rotations by the Badger defense. Whether it was letting it fly from deep or attacking closeouts, Maryland kept pace with Wisconsin on the scoreboard through the early going against the No. 1 ranked defense in the conference. Still, both teams only shot 37% from the field in the first.
If Maryland was going to keep this one competitive, it wasn’t going to do so without the help of Darryl Morsell. The senior guard has suffered his share of scoring struggles so far this season, including last Friday’s loss in which he had a chance to tie the game in the final second at the free-throw line but came up empty.
Returning to the starting lineup in Tuesday’s contest, Morsell began to assert himself late in the first half. With just under five minutes remaining, sophomore forward Donta Scott dove took his defender toward the rim from the perimeter, forcing Wisconsin to rotate and play help defense. With Morsell left wide open in the corner, the senior received the pass and knocked in the corner three.
On the next possession, he decided to do it himself. He beat his man off the dribble, plunging into the lane as Wisconsin once again rotated. But Morsell would not let the contact deny him, rising over his defender for the two-handed slam to trim Maryland’s deficit to just one point with 3:37 remaining.
But Morsell’s mini-run would prove to be the last of Maryland’s first half scoring, going without a field goal for the final three-plus minutes of the first half to trail the Badgers 28-24.
Maryland’s offense continued without a score until the 16:14 mark of the second half, with eleven consecutive missed field goals allowing for Wisconsin to go on a 20-9 run and extend its lead to eight points — the largest of the game.
But as it did last game whenever the deficit began to mount, Maryland used its defense to generate some momentum. Coming out in a 3-2 zone just over five minutes into the half, junior guard Aaron Wiggins got his hands in the passing lane and came up with a live ball steal at the top of the key, coasting for an easy dunk while allowing the Terps to set up in their press.
An up-and-under score from Hamilton on the next trip down cut the lead to four, with a miss and long rebound on the following Wisconsin possession allowing for Donta Scott to get to the rim in transition for the lay-in to cut the lead to two and cap a 8-0 run with 13:31 remaining.
“They’re hard to guard,” Turgeon said. “We knew we were gonna play some 3-2, we thought we could use it against this team we’ve used in the past, it was good for us ... it kind of gave us confidence and got our offense going.”
Though the Badgers continued to knock down shots on the other end, Maryland never ceased in its physical brand of basketball. The 2-1-2 full-court press made it difficult on Wisconsin’s guards to get the ball up the floor, forcing one 10-second violation that energized Turgeon on the sideline.
Much of Maryland’s second half offense relied on its guard play, as junior guard Eric Ayala began to heat up. Despite starting the game 0-for-3 from three-point range, Ayala scored 17 points in the second half, including scoring a triple with a little over left in the game to put the Terps ahead 48-45 as the dream of a road upset began to formulate.
“[I was] just letting the game come to me,” Ayala said. “Just going with the flow of the game and the ball kind of just started going in for me.”
The rest of the Terps were unconscious shooting after the nightmare stretch prior, converting on 13 of its next 15 field goal attempts down the stretch after the 0-for-11 start. Ayala continued to feel on the offensive end, finishing through contact for an and-one to put Maryland ahead 57-52 with 4:48 remaining.
The Terps turned to Scott to close things out on both ends of the floor, finally getting the offensive execution it needed to close out a game while picking up its first win in Madison since 2016.
“He had like one step on the defender and when he caught that one step, I’m like ‘That’s a dunk’,” senior guard Darryl Morsell said. “I’m just glad he could finish it. He’s been been playing big for us, so I’m proud of him.”
Three Things to Know
1. Maryland came up big with blocks - In a game that relied heavily on defense, the Terps showed up in the paint, winning the block-battle 5-1. Maryland failed to surpass five blocks in a game in its last three contests, but Morsell’s three swats on his own pushed the team over the edge. Wiggins and Marial each added one of their own, while the Badgers struggled to stop Maryland scorers in the paint all night.
2. Micah Potter was held in check. After being stymied through the early going, the 6-foot-10 senior was never really able to get going. He finished with four points on 2-of-8 shooting and 0-for-2 from deep, and struggled to control the boards with just 5 rebounds.
3. The Terps shot it a lot better than recent showings. The Terps shot just 41% from the floor in their last four games, dropping as low as 34.4% in the loss to Rutgers on Dec. 14. In a game that took off in the second half on Monday night, Maryland got itself into a shootout with the Badgers down the stretch, finishing the game shooting 50%. Though they started with a 37% finish at halftime, a massive second half propelled the Terps to the win as they sunk 16 of their 25 shots in the period.