When the Northwestern men’s basketball team last played Maryland in January, they encountered a demon by the name of Jalen Smith. After going up by 14 at half, the ‘Cats saw the Maryland sophomore punch through their defense for 25 points as the Terrapins pulled away for a big victory.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The ‘Cats (6-19, 1-14 B1G) lost again to Maryland (22-4, 12-3 B1G) 76-67 Tuesday night, showing their potential (and slight improvement) while holding the seventh-ranked Terps to a single-digit victory. Smith again ran all over them on both sides of the ball, scoring 22 points and grabbing a whopping 19 rebounds for his ninth straight double-double.
“What makes him so tough is his ability to play all over the court,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said postgame. “They’re running plays for him to come off down screens for threes, he can drive it, obviously his length, he gets six offensive rebounds, and then he can score around the basket … there’s a reason why he’s going to play basketball for a long time.”
In addition to Smith’s dominance, Maryland was led in their victory by junior Darryl Morsell had a dazzling display of 13 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Three-time Big Ten player of the week Anthony Cowan Jr. also played well, scoring 19 points.
It wasn’t a single-sided affair, however. The Wildcats flashed their potential in their young core, being led by sophomore Miller Kopp, freshman Boo Buie and redshirt first-year Ryan Young in their effort. Young scored a conference-play career-high 17 points, while also nabbing eight rebounds and dishing three assists. Buie and Kopp also made it rain aplenty, with Buie swishing 15 points and Kopp going 3-for-4 from downtown for 13 points.
The team also showed their resilience and comeback ability several times in the game. After falling behind 15-6 early, the team went on a run to cut the lead to just 22-18, before falling apart and allowing Maryland to race out to a 37-25 run. The ‘Cats never quit on the game, however, bringing the deficit to within five and four in the second half, before their opponent woke up again and secured the lead.
Even more good news? The Wildcats actually matched a top-10 performance again, outplaying Maryland in several aspects: the team went 42.9% from the field and 38.9% from downtown, as compared to the Terps’ 41% and 26.7%, respectively. Where the ‘Cats faltered once again, however, was foul trouble: the team allowed Maryland to take a whopping 22 free throws, the Terps making 18 of them.
“[It] was a really well-played game by both teams,” Collins said. “Every time they tried to get separation from us, I thought we hung around. We found a way to get a couple baskets to keep it within arm’s length. I thought it was great growth for our guys … I’m just really proud of coming in here and the way we competed against one of the best teams in America.”
So the positives for the ‘Cats? The young core is playing great, they’ve shown resilience in two tough arenas, they know their areas of difficulty and they’ll now return to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday to play Minnesota (12-12, 6-8 B1G).
It’s all looking up from here.
Stats provided by ESPN