COLLEGE PARK, MD - A senior class motivated to win its first Big Ten championship of their tenure finally had an opportunity to seize a share of it. It turns out Wisconsin is going to have to wait a little bit longer to hoist the hardware.
Having a chance to clinch a conference title for the first time since 2008, No.5 Wisconsin couldn’t contain hot-shooting Dez Wells and a Maryland team playing in front of a raucous sellout crowd, as the 14th-ranked Terrapins ended the Badgers 10-game winning streak with a 59-53 victory Tuesday.
Losing for the first time since Jan.11, Wisconsin (25-3, 13-2 Big Ten) saw its lead in the Big Ten conference shrink to two games over Maryland (23-5, 11-4) and 2.5 games over Michigan State and Purdue with three games remaining.They can thank Wells, as the senior scored a game-high 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting. The senior also went a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and had four assists to zero turnovers.
“Dez Wells was terrific,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “He was not going to let us lose. He was great defensively. He was great rebounding. He was great scoring.”
Senior forward Frank Kaminsky led the Badgers with 18 points, junior forward Sam Dekker had 14 points and nine rebounds and sophomore forward Nigel Hayes contributed 10 points before fouling out near the end of the game.
The Badgers’ stone-cold shooting (1-for-11 from 3-point range in the first half) coupled with 13-for-24 shooting from the field by Maryland led to halftime score of 31-20, the Badgers’ biggest deficit of the season that proved too big to overcome.
“When you're on the road and dig yourself into an 11-point deficit at halftime, it's never going to be easy to overcome that,” said Kaminsky. “We were close but we just couldn't do it.”
Sophomore guard Bronson Koenig (2-for-12, 6 points) admitted the Badgers were “definitely settling” for perimeter shots instead of attacking the low post, as well as not getting back in transition or defending the paint on dribble drives in the opening 20 minutes. The results were the Badgers gave up 16 points in the paint in each half.
“We did a better job in the second half, made some shots,” said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. “If you're not hitting them and you're always playing from behind, it is a grind.”
Wisconsin picked up the pace early in the second half by scoring 15 points on its first eight possessions, but as has happened in a number of games lately, the offense slowed a bit when reserves came onto the court. Although Kaminsky scored eight points in the first 6 minutes, 23 seconds of the second half, his last field goal came at the 13:37 mark to cut the deficit to 35-33.
“I thought Frank took advantage of most of the opportunities he had,” said Ryan. “He was getting a lot of help thrown at him and that means when he gets rid of the ball, you're going to give up 3-point looks. If you don't hit them, it puts you in a hole.”
Added Kaminsky: “The second half is how we need to play all of the time.”
Eventually tying the score at 47 off a Koenig 3-pointer, Wisconsin had a chance to take its first lead since opening minutes. Forcing one of only six Maryland turnovers on the defensive end, Duje Dukan registered an offensive rebound off a missed Koenig jumper, but he was called for traveling while trying to secure possession, with the outside official appearing to call a foul simultaneously with the baseline referee's travel call.
A 6-1 Maryland run ensued, and the Badgers never got closer than three the rest of the game.
“We had a great comeback, then you had a travel call, with another ref calling a foul,” said Ryan. “It was the biggest play in the game.”
Another key sequence occurred with 3 minutes left – senior guard Josh Gasser's layup was blocked by Wells and freshman guard Melo Trimble scored a layup mere seconds later to give the Terps a 55-50 lead. Trimble chipped in 16, including the final six points to help the Terrapins shoot 48 percent from the field.
“Wells and Trimble were better off the bounce and we were at trying to take that away,” said Ryan. “Again, we know were going to give up some because of their ability. We aren't going to shut anyone out, but if you're not making shots at the other end, it makes it hard.”
The Badgers only 38.5 percent from the floor, 27.3 percent from 3-point range and just 7-for-12 from the free throw line, including Hayes missing two free throws in the first half while Maryland was building an early 20-12 point lead.
At halftime, the Badgers, who lead the NCAA in offensive efficiency, scored only 0.74 points per possession and finished at 0.96 points per possession for the game. It was the Badgers’ second game under 1 point per possession in the last three games played.
“They were aggressors,” said Dekker. “They made plays down the stretch.”