Terps Rally For First Road Win vs. Northwestern; Prepare For Indiana
A strong second half propelled No. 17 Maryland (15-4, 5-3 Big Ten) to its first road win of the season Jan. 21, as the Terps took down Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena with a 77-66 victory.
Terps’ sophomore forward Jalen ‘Stix’ Smith was the big story of the night, scoring a career-high 25 points to go along with 11 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season. He was joined by fellow sophomore Aaron Wiggins, who netted a career-high of his own by scoring 17 points off the bench for Maryland.
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Maryland needed Smith and Wiggins to step up against the Wildcats because it was not getting offense from the rest of the players in its rotation. Senior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr., junior guard Darryl Morsell, and sophomore guard Eric Ayala combined to shoot just 3-for-21 from the field, while Smith and Wiggins were 12-for-25 with seven three-pointers combined.
Slow starts have haunted the Terps all season long, and Tuesday night was no different. Trailing by 14 at halftime, Maryland needed a reboot. Whatever was said or done at halftime worked for Mark Turgeon’s team, as the Terps started the second half on a 10-3 run to get back in the game and used stifling defense to eventually secure a double-digit victory.
Maryland’s first lead of the game came at the 9:09 mark in the second half after Cowan hit a three to make it 56-55. Cowan finished the game with 12 points, six assists, and just one turnover. The night marked some milestones for the Terps’ senior, as he passed Melo Trimble to move to No. 13 on Maryland’s all-time scoring list and John Lucas have the fifth-most assists in program history.
Cowan wasn’t the only Maryland player protecting the ball against the Wildcats. Turnovers have been an issue at timses for the Terps this season, but after turning the ball over five times in the first half, Maryland committed just one after halftime.
On the other end of the floor, the Terps forced the Wildcats into 13 turnovers, which led to 16 points off turnovers for Maryland. Getting out in transition and getting to the free throw line were the keys to Maryland’s offensive success on Tuesday night. The Terps went to the line 29 times against the Wildcats and hit 26 of their attempts. Their 88.9 percent from the charity stripe marked their highest percentage on the road in the Turgeon era. Cowan and Smith were the biggest beneficiaries at the line, combining to shoot 16-for-17 on their foul shots — Smith was 9-for-9.
While Smith, Cowan, and Wiggins all reached double figures on Tuesday night, Northwestern had three double-digit scorers of its own. Maryland native and former Loyola-Maryland lacrosse All-American Pat Spencer led the Wildcats with 17 points and nine rebounds, while freshman forward Miller Kopp scored 16 and sophomore forward Pete Nance netted 11.
Now that Maryland has secured its first true road win of the season, the Terps will stay on the road for their next outing Jan. 26 as they head to Bloomington, Indiana, to take on the Indiana Hoosiers — a team they beat by 16 at home Jan. 4.
Indiana has won three of its four games since losing at Xfinity Center a few weeks ago and seems to be rounding into form under head coach Archie Miller. Currently sitting in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten at sixth place, the Hoosiers are led by talented freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis, who is coming off of an 18-point, 13-rebound double-double in a road win over Nebraska.
Maryland did an excellent job of holding Jackson-Davis in check in College Park, allowing him to score just seven points in 23 minutes — his third-lowest point total so far this season.
The Terps played one of their best overall games of the year in their previous win over the Hoosiers, going into halftime with an eight-point lead and busting that lead open even further in the second half. Former Terps’ recruiting target Devonte Green — brother of NBA wing Danny Green — did most of the damage for the Hoosiers that night by scoring 18 points, but 10 of those came in the waning minutes with Maryland’s starters out of the game.
Hoosiers’ 6-foot-11 junior center Joey Brunk had his moments in the first meeting with the Terps and finished the game just shy of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. However, foul trouble limited his production in that game. Although Stix Smith is playing arguably the best ball of his collegiate career, frontcourt depth seems to be Maryland’s biggest issue at the moment. Smith was Maryland’s MVP in its previous win over Indiana, in which he scored a game-high 19 points to go along with eight rebounds. His matchup with Brunk on Sunday will be one to keep an eye on.
Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland is 4-0 at home against the Hoosiers. However, the Terps are 0-3 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.
Turgeon’s team will hope to end its road losing streak against Indiana this weekend and win its second Big Ten contest away from College Park this season. Stopping the Hoosiers will require limiting Jackson-Davis once again, preventing Green from getting hot from downtown, and Smith getting the better of his matchup with Brunk.
After Indiana, the Terps return home for two consecutive games in College Park, where they are undefeated this season. Conference games have proven to be no easy task for any Big Ten teams this season, but winning its next three — or even two of three — will likely keep Maryland where it currently sits as a top-four team in the league.
Pat has been covering sports in the DMV area since 2012. He is a former Washington Redskins beat reporter for PressBoxDC.com and has been covering University of Maryland football and basketball recruiting and daily beats for Rivals.com's Terrapin Sports Report since 2013. Pat graduated from College Park with his master's degree in journalism and has received bylines in publications such as USA TODAY Sports, The Philadelphia Inquirer, SB Nation, and Yahoo! Sports. A Philadelphia native, Pat enjoys fishing, golfing, and playing fantasy sports when he's not covering or watching a game.