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Maryland men’s basketball can’t complete comeback, falls 61-55 to No. 14 Wisconsin

The Terps were inconsistent all night long.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to light a fire after a slow 20 minutes that saw it trail by 18 points to No. 14 Wisconsin at the break, Maryland men’s basketball came alive to start the second half.

The Terps were in the midst of an 8-0 run with the deficit shortened to 10 points with 16:52 left when Eric Ayala attempted a three-point shot from the right wing. The offensive spark was extinguished though, as he ball clanked off the rim and into Badger hands.

Freshman point guard Aquan Smart spun around in frustration and banged on an endline table, knowing that shot would have helped curb the inconsistencies the Terps showed all night long.

Despite managing an upset win on the road in December, Maryland fell against No. 14 Wisconsin, 61-55, due to an inability to sustain any momentum amid poor play and decision-making.

“As a basketball player, it’s always frustrating when you’re doing the right things and then you just can’t capitalize on the other end,” Donta Scott said. “We got to start the game off how we came out to start the second half. And then once we do that, we can really get something going.”

Neither team was able to come out blazing to start, with both teams combining to shoot 5-of-13 from the floor with four turnovers through the first five minutes.

With 12:43 remaining in the first half, it was Wisconsin’s Johnathan Davis cleaning up after three Terps blocked the shot of his Badger teammate for a lay-in to cap-off an 8-0 run across 1:23 to push his team in front.

The Badgers used their 12-4 lead and built on it incrementally. The Terps continued to fire away from beyond-the-arc despite scoring 38 points in the paint against Wisconsin in the reverse fixture. Maryland missed its first nine three-point tries, helping the Badgers’ lead grow as high as 13 points.

Donta Scott managed to come alive and sink two three-point shots in two minutes, trying to help the Terps battle the Badgers down the stretch of the first half, but it was just softening the blow. Wisconsin center Micah Potter was then able to convert two and-one opportunities and repeatedly fight off the Terps on the boards, finishing the first half with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Wisconsin was able to extend its lead to 18 points, carrying a 38-20 advantage into the locker room. Maryland shot just 25% from the floor, including a 2-of-14 effort from beyond-the-arc. Scott was the only Terp to remotely perform well in the half, scoring 10 points on 40% shooting.

“We lost the game, really, right before halftime,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We cut it to eight on Darryl’s two free throws. And then last 3:46 we weren’t very good and they were good. I thought we missed a lot of open shots in the first half that maybe could have changed some things”

Out of the locker room, Maryland was finally able to convert its chances. The bench energy translated to play on the court with an 8-0 Terrapin run to start off the second frame.

When the Badgers finally pushed with points of their own, the Terps managed to punch back. Morsell and Wiggins each hit their first three-point shots in the second half as part of a 12-3 run that helped pull Maryland within two possessions at the under-12 timeout. But it didn’t last long.

“It was just a matter of spacing and ball movement,” Aaron Wiggins said. “I think in the second half, we moved the ball a lot better. I think a lot of us had a lot of open shots, especially to start the second half.”

With 8:54 remaining, Potter snapped back into first-half form, snagging an offensive board and going up against contact to sink the lay-in and eventually converted the three-point-play. After a Tyler Wahl steal, Potter managed to sink a three-pointer on the next possession that pushed the Badger lead back to 10 points and forced a timeout from Turgeon.

Just under two minutes later, it was another kick-out three to Potter that extended the Wisconsin lead to 15, essentially slamming the door on any Terrapin comeback.

“I think we somewhat just lost our groove,” Wiggins said. “We just stopped guarding, we just lost a little bit of effort on the defensive end, and we started to go shot-for-shot with them instead of trying to get more stops.”

Maryland made one final push as the Badgers went the final 7:05 without a field goal as they attempted to run out the clock. An Aaron Wiggins three with 2:09 remaining shrunk the lead down to seven points, but a block by Davis on Ayala smothered the remaining hopes.

Three things to know

1. The Terps got beaten badly on the boards early. After a three-point advantage in rebounds in the last matchup, Maryland struggled on the boards Wednesday. At the half, the Terps had been out-rebounded 24-14 and Wisconsin had eight second chance points.

Maryland bounced back with a 17-14 advantage on the boards in the second half, but the effort was too little too late to make a difference. Wisconsin had a 38-31 advantage on the night, finishing with 11 second half points thanks to seven offensive rebounds.

“[It’s about] the will to box out,” Scott said. “If we box out, then we get those rebounds. If we act lazy, we don’t get those rebounds. Tonight, we didn’t box out where we should’ve and they got those extra points.”

2. The bench didn’t contribute. Maryland didn’t get a single point from its bench players until 10:00 remained in the contest, when a Galin Smith hook shot accounted for the only two supporting points, forcing a drastic difference on the court whenever multiple starters took a breather. Depth was key against the Badgers in December’s upset victory, with bench players scoring 16 of the team’s 70 points.

Rotation guys were left entirely out of the equation in terms of offensive production, with that group only taking three shots, making just one.

3. Micah Potter torched the Terps. The Terps have struggled this season facing dominant bigs, and Potter continued to exploit mismatches. Maryland was able to contain him last time these teams faced, limiting Potter to four points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field and 0-for-2 from deep. But the same certainly couldn’t be said for Wednesday night’s matchup.

Potter scored 23 points, making 66% of his field goal attempts, including 66% mark from deep. Whenever Maryland cut into the Badgers deficit in the second half, Potter had an answer to Turgeon’s team back out of reach. The big man also finished with 12 rebounds and a pair of assists.