Men’s Basketball: Northwestern squanders another big lead in loss to Maryland


Gavin Skelly finishes a layup. The senior led the Wildcats with 15 points, but they fell after Maryland’s late run.

Ben Pope, Managing Editor

Men’s Basketball

Another goblin clambered into Northwestern’s escalating nightmare Monday night.

Unable to snap out of their ongoing streak of late-game meltdowns, the Wildcats (15-14, 6-10 Big Ten) blew a double-digit second-half lead for the third straight game and lost their fourth straight overall, this time 71-64 at home against Maryland.

“We were in a pretty good rhythm, and then the turnovers were the story,” coach Chris Collins said. “(Maryland) got us out of some of the stuff we were trying to do, and we just got really sloppy. I thought we had a lot of careless turnovers.”

After a 3-pointer by junior forward Vic Law gave the Cats an 11-point lead early in the second half, the Terrapins (19-11, 8-9) steadily fought back into the game, then erupted on a 16-2 run — taking advantage of several gaffes by sophomore center Barret Benson — to grab a 9-point advantage.

Already missing senior guard Bryant McIntosh for the second straight game, Law played through an apparent leg issue for much of Monday’s contest but eventually came out in the final minutes, and his team was unable to rally late without him. Collins said he hadn’t gotten an official diagnosis, but that he thought Law had just rolled his ankle.

Junior center Dererk Pardon said the team got away from their offensive game plan in the second half.

“Offensively, we started trying to do things by ourselves,” said Pardon, who tallied 14 points and six rebounds. “We’re not connected on the offensive end, more so in the second half (when) people start getting tired.”

Senior guard Scottie Lindsey led NU with 15 points, while sophomore guard Isiah Brown set his season high with 11. Proven Cat-killer Kevin Huerter topped them both on Maryland’s end of the court, however, shooting 7-for-12 Monday to up his season total in two meetings against NU to 40 points and nine assists.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said he told his team at halftime, at which point the Cats held a 37-30 lead, that they needed to change things quickly — and they responded.

“I said if they score 37 in the second half, we’re done, and it won’t be close,” Turgeon said. “(Then) our defense got going, our press helped them get out of a little bit of a rhythm, we guarded well the last 15 minutes, and that was really the difference.”

Collins shifted his team’s defensive stance from its typical hybrid zone to a conventional man-to-man in the first half in response to Maryland’s guard-heavy, floor-spreading style, he said. But the combination of a poor night at the rim — NU was outscored 34-18 in points in the paint thanks to numerous failures to box out — and plenty of turnovers leading to fast breaks in the other direction allowed the Terrapins to continue their offensive success nonetheless.

“We had 10 turnovers that led to about 20 points or so off turnovers in the second half,” Collins said. “That really energized them — those turnovers I think gave them life, because they were able to get layups on the other end and they were able to get the lead.”

As the season winds down and the injuries pile up, Collins said his squad is experiencing both physical and mental fatigue. The fans seem to be fatigued of watching a losing team, too — Monday’s announced crowd of 6,014 in Rosemont was the smallest since Jan. 10 against Minnesota.

As Pardon put succinctly after the game, simply earning one more victory has become the Cats’ all-encompassing challenge.

“Winning is the only thing that can motivate us right now,” he said. “The only thing that should be on our minds right now is just winning a ballgame, by any means.”

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