By Jesse Kirsch
Few expected the Northwestern Wildcats (10-10, 1-6 B1G) to hold on Sunday in their first Big Ten matchup with the #13 Maryland Terrapins (18-3, 6-2 B1G). Yet they did through most of the game, although ultimately losing 68-67.
Through 20 minutes of play, Northwestern led 41 to 30. They didn’t even cede the lead until the final 20 seconds of play.
Collins’s squad, having dropped five straight Big Ten games, faced a top-ranked Maryland squad. Despite the expected challenge, the Wildcats rebounded and shot better than the Terrapins—seven of nine from the field in the first half with 17 boards. Early offensive foul trouble for Maryland helped to keep the Wildcats on top.
The second half was much tighter, with the Terrapins coming within five points of the Wildcats before Northwestern widened the margin. Yet the ‘Cats proved unable to combat the full court press late in the game, suffering a few turnovers and a 10-second violation in the process. A late spark propelled the Wildcats onward, with Bryant McIntosh leading the way—the freshman guard had 21 points and 3 assists.
He didn’t just score; he made it look pretty. The pull-up “j” and floaters seemed to fall every time as he coasted down the lane. Sanjay Lumpkin had 12 points and six rebounds to help his rookie teammate.
This would all prove irrelevant as the Terrapins sprung forward late in the game; Maryland continually chipped away at the Wildcat lead. Tre Demps hit a mid-range jumper that coulda, woulda, shoulda been the game winner. But a Maryland put-back off the glass by forward Dez Wells sealed the game’s fate.
Coach Chris Collins called it “an extremely disappointing result,” as his young team ended the night with its fifth straight loss by seven points or fewer.
Northwestern has now lost six straight after an initial Big Ten win at Rutgers just before the new year. Coach Collins and his squad have less than a week to swallow this nail-biter of a loss before the Boilermakers visit Evanston next Saturday.
If you ask Collins, he’ll never count his team out of the fight.
“We just need to get more confident at the end.”