MADISON – Another day, another team, the same frustrating home result for the University of Wisconsin.
Another valiant effort was delivered but that does nothing for Wisconsin’s overall record, as sophomore guard Melo Trimble’ 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left was the difference in No.3 Maryland escaping with a 63-60 victory at the Kohl Center.
It was Wisconsin’s fifth home loss, the most since the Badgers lost eight home games during the 1997-98 season, and have all come by a combined 14 points.
“It’s pretty disheartening,” said junior Bronson Koenig. “The past few games we’ve had those mental lapses at the end that we can’t have. Our margin of error is microscopic. We just have to find ways to win, not find ways to lose.”
Wisconsin (9-8, 1-3 Big Ten) had a fair share of each of those in the final 10 minutes.
A 3-pointer by Koenig with 10:01 remaining gave Wisconsin a 47-46 lead and ignited the crowd, but UW’s offense zapped the energy by going 1 for its next 12, allowing Maryland (15-1, 4-0) to build a 58-50 lead with 4:44 remaining.
“We were good for about four minutes,” said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. “About the eight0minute mark to the four-minute mark, we were really, really good. We executed.”
UW shot 24-for-62 (38.7 percent), including 11 for 34 (32.4 percent) in the second half, 7-for-21 from 3-point range and 5-for-11 from the free throw line.
“We haven’t been (playing) to the best our abilities on every single play,” said Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard. “That’s the process we’re working towards.”
Per the norm under Gard, however, UW went down fighting. Zak Showalter drew a foul on 1:19 after his made layup to cut the lead to two possessions. While he missed the free throw, his 3-pointer on the ensuing possession cut the deficit to 60-57 with 1:05 remaining.
When Maryland guard Rasheed Sulaimon missed the front end of the bonus, only the Terrapins’ third missed free throw of the game, Koenig hit his third 3-pointer to tie the game at 60 with 23 seconds left. With thoughts of an upset brewing in overtime, Trimble ended it when he squared up in front of Showalter for the dagger.
“You just credit Melo; he made a heck of a shot,” said Gard, who said Trimble – an 87 percent free throw shooter – would have likely attacked the rim to draw contact had UW crowded him defensively. “There will be focus on that last possession, but I’m more concerned about all the other (possessions) leading up to that.”
Nigel Hayes, who described his game as “poop” to reporters earlier in the week, delivered with 17 points and was active early, but went only 1-for-8 in the second half when, according to him, he started to feed the hot hand. That belonged to Ethan Happ, who added 16 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth double-double on the season. Problem was there wasn’t much help outside that.
Koenig had 12 points but needed 12 shots to get there, Vitto Brown went 0-for-3 to drop his shooting percentage to 34.5 percent in Big Ten play and the UW bench went 2-for-12.
“We need to do the little thing that add up to give you a win,” said Hayes. “The last couple plays stand out, those are always magnified, but throughout the game the little things usually give you a win or a loss. We’ve been on this trend of not doing the right things.”
Four days after holding Indiana nearly 30 points below it scoring average, UW held Maryland to no field goals and two points on the first eight possessions of the second half. But Wisconsin’s offense, the same group that made only three field in a 20-minute span in Bloomington, couldn’t sustain prosperity.
“We do keep getting better, but we’ve been hearing that for a while now,” said Happ. “It’s time to start putting some wins on the board.”
Extending its conference winning streak to 12 games, the longest since they won 13 straight during its 2001-02 ACC season en route to the national title, Maryland got 14 points from Robert Carter and 11 from Milwaukee-native Diamond Stone, who was making his first appearance at the Kohl Center since announcing his commitment to the Terps in late March.
In the opening 20 minutes, UW shot 13-for-28 (46.4 percent) from the field but trailed 36-32 because Maryland shot 16-for-27 (59.3) with 18 points in the paint. That changed in the final half, however, as UW tightened up defensively to limit the Terps to 10 points inside and only 21 shots from the field.
Turgeon heaped praise on Wisconsin, saying it was the most physical game the Terrapins have faced all season and that the Badgers are improving. Unfortunately, right now that’s not enough.
“You can see how we’re getting better and everything like that, but we just have to put a full game together and do the little things together for the whole game,” said Koenig. “We didn’t lose because (Trimble) hit that three at the end necessarily, but there’s little things throughout the game in the first half and the second half. We haven’t played a full 40 minutes yet of our best basketball.”