The Maryland men’s basketball team first faced Northwestern Dec. 5, only two days after former head coach Mark Turgeon stepped down from his position.
Hopes remained high for the program in the present as many anticipated vast changes to occur long term.
Maryland lost to Northwestern, but later beat then-No. 20 Florida, Lehigh and Brown. Yet, the Terps fell back into a hole and suffered losses to Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin in early January.
The Terps entered their game against Northwestern Jan. 12 with a similar mindset as the first time the two teams met — hoping to overcome a rough patch, snap a losing streak and capture their first conference win of the season.
Interim head coach Danny Manning thought this game would be different.
“That first game against Northwestern, we started implementing some different things we haven’t done before,” Manning said. “We have a little bit better feel for some of those changes that we did make.”
And this time, Maryland (9-7, 1-4 Big Ten) emerged victorious as it defeated Northwestern (8-6, 1-4 Big Ten), 94-87, in double overtime on Jan. 12 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
“Complete team effort,” Manning said. “Very happy for our guys because they’ve continued to battle and tonight were able to stay the course and come away with a win.”
Here are five things to know following Maryland’s first conference win of the season.
1. Regulation was not enough to decide a winner.
Late mistakes toward the end of regulation caused the Terps’ six-point lead (72-66) to slip away.
A travel by junior forward Donta Scott gave Northwestern’s Pete Nance a chance to drill a 3-pointer with 14.5 seconds left. Scott then committed two consecutive fouls (one of which was a flagrant), allowing the Wildcats to tie the game at 72. Senior guard Eric Ayala missed a long 3-pointer that could have ended the game in regulation.
“In situations like that, we’ve got do a much better job of maintaining our poise and not being caught in situations like that,” Manning said.
Maryland trailed for the majority of the first overtime. The team clawed back with about one minute remaining. It started with a layup from graduate guard Fatts Russell. Seconds later, junior guard Hakim Hart converted a pair of free throws off of a Northwestern turnover.
The Wildcats quickly responded with a jumper of their own. However, Russell drilled a jumper, forced a foul and made the next free throw to tie the game at 83.
Russell was a difference-maker in the second overtime as well.
Maryland won the jump ball. Russell passed to graduate guard Xavier Green for an alley-oop. Northwestern responded with a jumper in the paint, but Maryland controlled the second overtime session from that point on.
“I just was trying to tell the team, ‘You know, this is where we got to make that next step … turn that corner,'” Ayala said. “So I definitely think we took the next step today and [are now] heading toward the right direction.”
It started with a pull-up jumper by Hart that extended Maryland’s lead to two points (87-85). Russell then followed that with a pull-up jumper of his own.
The remainder of Maryland’s points came from Russell. The Rhode Island transfer finished the night with 23 points, five rebounds and seven assists. His offensive surge came while playing with four fouls.
“That was big-time,” Ayala said of Russell’s play. “We need him. … He just plays so hard and competes.”
2. Eric Ayala and Hakim Hart played well throughout the game.
It is no secret that senior guard Eric Ayala has been the catalyst of this team, and he continued to prove that against Northwestern Jan. 12.
Ayala found his rhythm toward the end of the first half. The senior drilled a 3-pointer with about six minutes remaining in the half. He forced a foul as well and made the free throw.
Nearly 30 seconds later, Ayala made another layup, played through contact and made the free throw. Ayala’s 7-0 run gave the Terps their first game lead (21-19). Ayala nailed another shot from behind the arc before the end of the half, giving Maryland a one-point lead with nearly two minutes remaining (27-26).
Hart also excelled early. Hart scored the Terps’ first two baskets of the game — a layup and a 3-pointer. The Philadelphia native found ways to capitalize on the Wildcats’ mistakes. A travel by Northwestern paved the way for Hart to make a layup in the paint and put the Terps within one point of the Wildcats (12-11) early on. Hart added a free throw and layup before the end of the first half.
“Hakim was outstanding again,” Manning said.
Ayala and Hart combined for 20 of the Terps’ 30 points in the first half, and their play only continued into the second half.
Hart’s first second-half basket was a layup in the paint off of a Northwestern turnover. Hart finished the night with 18 points and eight rebounds.
“We need that, we need that,” Ayala said regarding Hart’s consistency, “especially now that we are about to get in the middle of league play and we need more consistency out of everybody.”
Ayala’s play also continued into the second half. The Wilmington, Del., native hit two consecutive deep shots that gave Maryland a five-point lead over Northwestern (56-51) with less than eight minutes remaining in the game.
Deep shots continued to work in favor of Ayala. He slammed home another 3-pointer with nearly four minutes of the game that gave the Terrapins a four-point lead (64-60). Although Northwestern responded with a layup, Ayala immediately followed up with a driving layup of his own.
Ayala finished the game with 26 points and 11 rebounds. It was the first double-double of his career.
“Eric is one of the older players on our team, and tonight he gets his first double-double of his career,” Manning said. “He’s made some shots for us, recently, shooting the ball very well from three.”
3. Fatts Russell and Donta Scott had strong second-half performances.
Russell and Scott both exhibited offensive surges in the second half. Scott’s hook shot marked the Terrapins’ first basket of the second half and tied the game at 32.
Russell made his first 3-pointer of the game one minute later, and Scott immediately responded with a 3-pointer of his own. Those threes gave the Terrapins a two-point lead (38-36). Russell posted another deep shot a few minutes later.
The game remained tight between both teams for the remainder of the game, but a pair of free throws from Russell in the final two minutes helped extend the Terrapins’ lead to six points (68-62). Scott had a jumper in the last two minutes as well.
However, Scott fouled out in the final seconds of the game. He finished the game with 17 points and six rebounds.
4. Both teams started slow.
The Terps started slowly against the Wildcats, who built a six-point lead (8-2) against the Terps less than four minutes into the game. Maryland committed four turnovers within the first few minutes, allowing the Wildcats to start with a lead.
However, Northwestern also struggled early. The team missed several shots, both from the field and behind the arc. Yet, the Terrapins had a difficult time capitalizing on those mistakes. Both teams struggled to generate offense early on.
Eric Ayala, Fatts Russell, Julian Reese and Donta Scott all missed 3-point shots in the first half. The Terrapins shot 11-for-30 (36.7 percent) from the field during the first half.
“Nobody’s going to be perfect from the field,” Manning said. “… That’s just how it works. And some nights you’re going to make them, and some nights you’re not going to make them.”
The second half was not that different, as both teams traded baskets for most of the half. However, Maryland finished victorious this time.
“All of our other games were kind of like this, but we just fell short,” Russell said. “But today, I felt we fought all the way to the end.”
5. Julian Reese and Qudus Wahab remained quiet.
Reese and junior center Qudus Wahab have had quiet performances as of late and did so again Jan. 12.
Reese finished the night with two points and two rebounds. His lone basket came early in the first half. The freshman encountered foul trouble early on in the night and fouled out with 2:45 remaining in the game.
Wahab’s offense was missing as well. The Georgetown transfer concluded the night with four points and five rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
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