Men’s Basketball: Northwestern fumbles away late lead to Maryland

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Men’s Basketball: Northwestern fumbles away late lead to Maryland

Pat Spencer looks to make a move. The Wildcats dropped their third conference game in a row to Maryland on Thursday.

Pat Spencer looks to make a move. The Wildcats dropped their third conference game in a row to Maryland on Thursday.

Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Pat Spencer looks to make a move. The Wildcats dropped their third conference game in a row to Maryland on Thursday.

Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Pat Spencer looks to make a move. The Wildcats dropped their third conference game in a row to Maryland on Thursday.

John Riker, Assistant Sports Editor

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By the numbers, Northwestern’s effort Tuesday looked like a winning one. Battling No. 17 Maryland, the Wildcats shot 50 percent from the field while limiting the Terrapins to a 35.7 percent clip, muscled their way to a 30-12 advantage in points in the paint and held a 14-point halftime lead.

But, the statistics didn’t add up to a victory. NU (6-12, 1-7 in Big Ten) was outscored 51-26 in the second half and lost to Maryland (15-4, 5-3) by double digits, 77-66.

“Tonight, to have a lead that we did and to let it slip away in the second half, the message was a little more stern,” coach Chris Collins said. “Not being negative with the guys, but just about how tough you have to be in this league. It requires not just good play, but requires a lot of toughness.”

Early on, the Cats’ momentum from a near-upset of No. 21 Illinois seemed to have carried over. NU scored the game’s first 10 points and didn’t let up. The Cats found success inside and out, scoring 18 in the paint as well as knocking down a quartet of three-pointers.

On the other side, the Terrapins took 17 of their 25 first-half field-goal attempts from beyond the arc and made just five, and down low Maryland center Jalen Smith was held to just 1-for-6 shooting and two rebounds. By halftime, the NU advantage was up to 14.
NU maintained a comfortable lead for the first eight minutes of the second half despite its hot hand cooling off. Then, Maryland took off, blitzing the Cats with a 15-2 run over a four-minute stretch to reverse a 10-point deficit into a 3-point lead.

Graduate transfer guard Pat Spencer, a Davidsonville, Md. native, kept NU in the game with scores in three consecutive possessions, but Smith finished the Cats out with resounding dunks and a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line. NU failed to convert on a field goal in the final 3:53.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a few times and gave them momentum,” Spencer said. “They turned it into threes on the other end. Those are the things that separate wins from losses.”

The game continued a frustrating trend for the Cats — an inability to close out games. NU fumbled away their lead with eight turnovers in the final frame and allowed Maryland to score 51 points over that span, including 21 by Smith.

The return of freshman guard Boo Buie was a bright spot in defeat. Though Buie showed rust with just three points over his 16 minutes, Collins saw the star freshman’s return as a promising sign for the offense going forward.

“It’s good to have him back out there,” Collins said. “He’s a huge part of what we’re doing for the future and its these games, this experience where he can get better.”

With the late collapse, the Cats fell to 1-7 in Big Ten play and remain in last place in the conference. Though the recent results have been disappointing, NU is taking the disappointments as part of the process.

“I’ve seen this before, I’ve been a part of this before,” Collins said. “Usually with young groups, the final thing you see is wins and losses. You see development, you see growth, but it’s really hard to win at this level. The last step is learning how to break through and win these conference games.”

Email: johnriker2023@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @thejohnriker

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