Maryland finishes perfect through Big Ten play at home with 75-59 win over Northwestern

On an electric senior day in College Park where Maryland basketball celebrated the careers of five important pieces to its 2022-23 puzzle, the Terps made a season-high 14 three-pointers in a 75-59 victory over No. 21 Northwestern.

Maryland finished the regular season 16-1 in home games, having won all 10 conference games played at the Xfinity Center.

With second-place (for now) in the Big Ten on the line, the Terps entered Sunday’s game needing a win over the Wildcats to boost their odds at having a double-bye in the upcoming Big Ten tournament. Maryland (20-9, 11-7 Big Ten) is now tied with Northwestern and Indiana at 11-7 in the conference, but hold the tiebreaker advantage over both teams.

“Going 10-0 in this conference at home, that’s pretty impressive for this group,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said. “It shows you how great of a program this is, how great of a fanbase it is. I think the fanbase really got behind us and I think they appreciate how hard they work, how hard they play. To be honest with you, I just sit back every once in a while and just watch. It’s a fun place to play and a fun place to watch a game.”

Jahmir Young was instrumental – as he has been all season – in helping the Terps win their 11th Big Ten game of the season and 20th overall.

“You just try to run stuff so that you can get your best player in a position where offensively he can do what he does best,” Willard said. “Everything we have now is designed to get him downhill and just let his natural talent take over.”

Young scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half and was a key reason why Maryland found success from beyond the arc (14-22).

Northwestern entered Sunday’s matchup fresh off a disappointing loss at Illinois, where it saw an 18-point halftime lead evaporate in the closing minutes of the second half.

The Wildcats began Sunday’s game looking unbothered by the recent collapse, starting the game 9-of-15 from the field to help them grab a 23-18 lead. Leading scorer Boo Buie, who scored 35 points in Thursday’s loss, was held scoreless until he was able to knock down a three-pointer with just over two minutes to go in the first half.

Buie was unable to find any offensive rhythm on Sunday, as he finished 1-9 from the floor with only four points, snapping his 22-game streak of scoring in double-figures.

“[Maryland] has good quickness, good size. I thought they were making [Buie] be a passer,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said. “It was obvious that they were going to try to take him away.”

While Buie garnered most of the attention, Chase Audige capitalized on the opportunity and led the way for the Wildcats with 14 first-half points, going 6-9 from the field. He struggled in the second half, scoring only two points.

As a very high-scoring first half came to a close with Northwestern holding a one-point lead in the final seconds, Young knocked down a stepback three-pointer – his fourth of the half – to give Maryland a 41-39 lead at the break.

The Terps continued the hot shooting from their recent victory over Minnesota, shooting 62% from the floor and connecting on 8-11 from three-point range in the first half.

What was once a major flaw of this team has quickly turned into a major asset:

“I think our defense has created opportunities where we’ve been able to get easier shots,” Willard said. “I think we had five threes in transition today. … At home I think we’ve taken advantage of being aggressive on defense – even though it has led to some breakdowns – it has given us opportunities to get some easy threes in transition.”

The second half yielded similar results, as quick three’s from seniors Hakim Hart and Donta Scott helped Maryland push its lead to near double-digits.¬†An ensuing corner three from Don Carey sent the sold-out Xfinity Center into a frenzy as Maryland took a 62-51 lead with just over nine minutes to go.

“I think Don has been our silent leader,” Willard said. “Just because, although he has struggled at times, he has brought the most professional attitude of any player I have ever coached. … Although he has struggled offensively, he’s been a huge part of what we have done defensively.”

An emphatic one-handed breakaway slam from Hart sealed the Maryland victory, extending the lead to 75-57. This allowed Willard to sub in Patrick Emilien, so he could have each of the seniors on the floor together for one final time before subbing them out to a massive ovation from the crowd.

“I wanted to have fun,” Willard said. “I never have fun on senior night because I’m like an emotional wreck, and that goes off onto my players. … [It is] the last chance they are going to be in the building. I was going to have fun no matter what, if we got blown out by 20 I was going to enjoy the fact that this group has worked really hard and I was going to be appreciative of what they’ve given us.”

“It’s just a moment that you are going to remember for the rest of your life,” Young said. “Just trying to take care of business, but also enjoy it and stay in the moment.”

After the final buzzer sounded, the Maryland players walked over to the student section of the crowd to show their appreciation for this season’s always-energetic home fanbase.

“I feel like we have the best student section now,” Willard said. “Just wanted to say thank you. I think it’s very important, … these are student athletes, … to say thank you to the people coming out and supporting.”

Maryland will travel to Ohio State and Penn State this week to conclude its regular season, in hopes of capturing two more road victories before the Big Ten tournament.

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