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Hot-shooting Wisconsin sends Maryland men home from Big Ten tournament

Hot-shooting Wisconsin sends Maryland men home from Big Ten tournament

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 1

MINNEAPOLIS — Maryland’s long-shot aspiration of completing a run to the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament championship evaporated in resounding fashion during an 87-56 loss to Wisconsin in the second round Thursday afternoon at Target Center.

Their most lopsided defeat of the season not only continued the Terrapins’ misfortunes in the Big Ten tournament but also ensures they will miss out on the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons based on metrics the selection committee considers when awarding at-large berths.

In surrendering its most points this season, No. 12 seed Maryland (16-17) lost for the fourth time in five games and failed again to win a second game in the Big Ten tournament since joining the conference in 2014. The Big Ten’s top-ranked scoring defense permitted the fifth-seeded Badgers (20-12) to make 16 of 25 three-pointers, including 10 of 13 in the first half. Wisconsin shot 51.7 percent from the field overall.

By contrast, Maryland was 22 of 56 from the field (39.3 percent).

“The way we built the roster was good, but as the year went on, I was just really, really shocked at how much we struggled to shoot the basketball,” Maryland Coach Kevin Willard said. “I just think our inability to make shots just led to [six] three-point-or-less losses, and that adds up, just wears you down.”

Jahmir Young led the Terrapins with 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting. The fifth-year point guard and team scoring leader (20.5 points per game) was among three Maryland players to score in double figures in a game the Terrapins trailed for all but 37 seconds in losing to the Badgers for a second time this season.

Freshman guard DeShawn Harris-Smith (Paul VI) added 16 points, one short of matching a season high, and junior forward Julian Reese finished with 10 points and five rebounds four days after missing his first game of the season because of a sore ankle. The honorable mention all-Big Ten selection sat out Sunday’s regular season finale against Penn State, an 85-69 loss in State College, Pa., before playing nearly 28 minutes and scoring 12 points in Wednesday night’s first-round win over Rutgers.

“There was a lot of emotions, especially this one, knowing it was our last one,” said Young, who embraced each of his teammates as he left the court for the final time. “Just the game getting out of hand and us just — you could see us just deflate a little bit. Wisconsin was on a run, and their confidence was just building every shot that was going in.”

Guard John Blackwell had 18 points for the Badgers, making a game-high 4 of 6 three-pointers, and forward Steven Crowl chipped in 17 points while sinking all three of his three-point attempts. Eight players made at least one three-pointer in what was by far Wisconsin’s most efficient performance from behind the arc this season.

The Badgers came into the week shooting just 33.9 percent on three-pointers, which ranks 10th out of 14 schools in the Big Ten.

“I see these guys every day, in every drill, in every workout, so I know we’ve got good shooters,” Wisconsin Coach Greg Gard said. “That’s a credit to defenses that have been able to do different things to us. But I also think you go through ebbs and flows of the season, and when you hit a little dip or a valley, not to get — don’t beat yourself up mentally. You have to keep playing and playing aggressively.”

Wisconsin, which will play No. 4 seed Northwestern in Friday’s quarterfinals, made its first six three-point attempts, putting Maryland in an early hole. By halftime, the deficit was 47-26.

Willard was able to rest his core three of Young, Reese and Donta Scott for the final minutes against the Scarlet Knights, but fatigue clearly took hold in the early stages Thursday, particularly in closing out on three-point shooters. The Terrapins entered the game second in the Big Ten in three-point field goal defense (31.3) but frequently were caught flat-footed, allowing the Badgers uncontested looks from deep.

Compounding matters for Maryland was the absence of Jahari Long, a top reserve who injured his right leg in the win over Rutgers and had to be helped off the court by teammates. Already limited in depth, Maryland ended at a 37-5 deficit in bench points.

“They hit 10 threes in the first half, which is tough,” said Young, who was selected all-Big Ten first team earlier this week. “They shot at such a high percentage from three, and we couldn’t run them off the line. They had us running on defense the majority of the game, so hat’s off to them. They had a great game.”

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