It feels like December all over again. Northwestern men’s basketball (8-14, 5-13 B1G) is playing quality basketball against quality teams. On Wednesday night, the ‘Cats gutted out a 60-55 victory against the Maryland Terrapins (15-11, 9-10 B1G) after finishing the game on a 6-0 run. For the ‘Cats, it was their second win in a row, and first victory over the Terrapins at Welsh-Ryan Arena since Maryland joined the Big Ten.
The win moves the ‘Cats to 8-14 overall (5-13 in Big Ten play) and an even 6-6 at home, with a chance to clinch a winning season at home with a win on Sunday against Nebraska. For the Terrapins, the loss snapped their five-game winning streak, representing a poor mark on their NCAA Tournament Resume.
The game certainly came down to the wire: sophomore center Ryan Young scored the go-ahead bucket with 1:30 to play and also collected a pair of key rebounds and made two key free throws down the stretch to eventually ice the game. Maryland had two possessions within the last 30 seconds to take the lead or tie the game, but Northwestern’s defense prevailed.
Sophomore guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige and junior forward Pete Nance made major contributions on the scoreboard with 15, 14 and 12 points respectively. Despite leading the team in minutes, junior forward Miller Kopp struggled and failed to record any points.
For the Terrapins, junior guard Aaron Wiggins led all scorers with 26 points, but the team struggled to find a balanced attack. The ‘Cats outscored the Terrapins 16-0 in points off the bench, certainly a large difference in the game.
While the ’Cats did better in bench scoring, there was a lack of discipline on display: Audige had a rough showing, as Northwestern head coach Chris Collins could be seen telling the guard to calm down after missing a shot in the first half. In the second half, Audige was involved in a double technical foul altercation in which the Terrapins definitely got the better of the situation, as Audige had to miss most of the second half with four fouls.
Like many other games this season, the game seemed over early on when Maryland opened on a 9-0 run. The ‘Cats were stagnant on offense and Chris Collins could be seen yelling at his guys to move around. The team missed multiple open looks, and the Maryland bench was making more noise than that of a typical Welsh-Ryan crowd. But after the first media time out, the script flipped.
“Maryland is a hot team that gives a non-traditional look with no true point guard,” Coach Collins said after the game to explain his team's slow start. Collins also jokingly blamed the game's poor start on his assistant coaches, but quickly repealed that and credited them for the teams mid game turnaround.
“We stayed together, kept fighting, and kept believing," Collins went on to say. "I couldn’t have been prouder.”
Collins's praise is for the right reasons: the ‘Cats recorded a big win over a hot team that will likely qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Looking ahead, Collins expressed praise for this Sunday’s opponent, Nebraska, and exercised caution when looking ahead to next week’s festivities in Indianapolis.
“Our guys will stick together, and we owe it to our seniors,” Collins said when speaking about the team’s success and ensuring they can continue to succeed.
Next, the ‘Cats will host league basement-dweller Nebraska (7-18, 3-15 B1G) on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Senior day festivities will occur prior to the game, which ought to have the ‘Cats fired up. After that, Northwestern will head to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Tournament with little to lose and a lot to gain.
We’ll see how far they can go.