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Men’s Basketball: Northwestern looking to carry momentum into Maryland matchup

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Vic Law handles the ball. The sophomore forward is looking to stay grounded after the Wildcats upset Wisconsin on Sunday.

Vic Law handles the ball. The sophomore forward is looking to stay grounded after the Wildcats upset Wisconsin on Sunday.

Daily file photo by Sara Gnolek

Daily file photo by Sara Gnolek

Vic Law handles the ball. The sophomore forward is looking to stay grounded after the Wildcats upset Wisconsin on Sunday.

Garrett Jochnau, Sports Editor

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Men’s Basketball


Before Sunday, Northwestern’s outlook had suddenly turned bleak after a promising start to the season. It took just one game for the narrative to flip back.

Sunday’s win over then-No. 7 Wisconsin snapped the two-game losing skid the team sustained without junior guard Scottie Lindsey that threatened to derail NU’s tournament hopes. And heading into Wednesday’s home matchup with No. 23 Maryland (21-4, 9-3 Big Ten), the Wildcats (19-6, 8-4) are not only back in the postseason picture, but confident in their ability to hang with another top 25 team.

“There’s a tendency to lose some confidence,” coach Chris Collins said. “Under the circumstances, with Scottie out, coming off two losses, it was a really important game for us to get back on track and regain some of our confidence that we’ve had most of this season.”

The Wisconsin victory legitimized NU’s playoff aspirations, but a second-consecutive win over a ranked team would prove that the upset wasn’t a fluke and further solidify the Cats’ NCAA tournament resume.

Even so, NU is staying grounded amid the renewed hype.

“We hear a lot of people saying, ‘Their ticket is punched,’ and all these brackets are coming out with us in it,” sophomore forward Vic Law said. “It gives us confidence that we’re playing the right brand of basketball right now, but we still got so many more games left that … we could just as easily be an NIT (team) or just another one of these Northwestern teams that were so close but then got bounced out.”

But these Cats aspire to be different from their predecessors, and a first-ever conference win over the Terrapins would further separate this year’s iterations from prior disappointments.

NU has not won against the Maryland since it joined the Big Ten before the 2014-15 season, though the Cats took Maryland to overtime in College Park last year and fell by just one a year earlier.

“They can score from all five positions, they have three guys, three terrific playmakers in (Melo) Trimble, (Anthony) Cowan and (Kevin) Huerter,” Collins said of the Terrapins. “They’re definitely one the top teams not only in our league, but even nationally.”

Anchored by center Damonte Dodd, the Terrapins’ defense also threatens to hamper an NU team that has been inconsistent offensively without Lindsey, who Collins said will be out against Maryland.
Junior guard Bryant McIntosh is fresh off a 25-point outburst against the Badgers, but might need help from his teammates after playing a full 40 minutes Sunday.

“They do a great job of trying to take away your initial actions,” McIntosh said in assessing Maryland. “They try and make you take shots that you don’t necessarily want to take, so you really have got to make them work defensively.”

A loss wouldn’t derail NU after its big win in Madison; the Cats have proved they have the ability to bounce back and are no longer in dire need of a signature win.

Even so, McIntosh and company know what a victory could mean for momentum, and for the team’s resume.

“At the end of the day, it was only worth one win in the Big Ten,” McIntosh said of the victory over the Badgers. “It’s an 18-round fight, and one is no more important than the other. We lose the next one, we’re just right back where we were.”

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Twitter: @GarrettJochnau

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