Scoring droughts have become the norm and have hurt Wisconsin this year, including Saturday when a second-half lull reared its ugly head in the loss to Maryland. Overall Wisconsin shot 24-for-62 (38.7 percent) from the field but at times couldn’t buy a basket in the second half during a critical 1-for-12 stretch after taking a 47-46 lead. In fact, after a made layup by Ethan Happ at the 12:11 mark in the second half, Wisconsin only managed to make five more field goals the rest of the way.
That porous stretch allowed Maryland to create some breathing room, as continuous empty possessions on both ends played in the hands of the Terrapins. Following Koenig’s 3-pointer at 10:01, UW didn’t make another field goal until the 5:50 mark, ending a 10-1 Maryland run. Over the final 10 minutes, Nigel Hayes was 0-for-6 from the field and just 1-for-2 from the line. That one free throw was UW’s only trip to the line in the first 18:24 of the second half.
Hayes was one of five players for Wisconsin to score, as he led Wisconsin with 17 points, 14 of which came in the first half. It was the 11th time this year Hayes has scored in double digits in a single half, but the junior went 1-for-8 after halftime after going 5-for-7 from the field in the first 20 minutes.
Happ was second with 16 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field and added 11 rebounds, giving him his sixth double-double of the season. At one point Happ scored six straight points for Wisconsin in the first half and six of Wisconsin’s eight points in the second half. When Happ was able to find ways to score, it was because he was able to cut well without the ball to locate an easy shot around the basket. Bronson Koenig was the only other player to reach double figures with 13 points and Zak Showalter finished the game with nine (all in the second half).
Maryland was able to take the paint away at times and held Wisconsin to 28 points in the lane. Wisconsin countered by going 4-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half, but Maryland adjusted after halftime to prevent the Badgers from consistently getting clean looks after halftime. Wisconsin managed only three 3-pointers on 12 attempts in the second half, two of which came in the last 1:09 of the game as Wisconsin was playing catch up.
UW’s inability to get to the free throw line, as well as missing free throws, once again played a deciding factor in the outcome of the game, as Wisconsin finished 5-for-11 from the charity stripe. Five different players for Wisconsin attempted a free throw but only Hayes (3-for-4) and Koenig (2-for-2) converted.
Four players came off the bench to play a combined 58 minutes, as Jordan Hill and Alex Illikainen registered 26 and 23 minutes, respectively. Illikainen’s 23 minutes were a career-high and five more than starter Vitto Brown (zero points). Illikainen was the only player to score off the bench, finishing with five points. Like Charlie Thomas (seven minutes) against Indiana, freshman Khalil Iverson didn’t see the floor for the first time this season.
Wisconsin’s defense held Maryland to 63 points – its lowest total of the season – but the Terrapins still shot 52.1 percent (25-for-48) from the field - the third time UW allowed its opponent to shoot above 50 percent. Despite the high-shooting percentage, Wisconsin’s defense was able to tighten up some in the second half after allowing Maryland to shoot close to 60 percent (59.3 percent) from the field, marking the eighth time this season UW allowed a team to shoot better than 50 percent in a half. Part of the reason why Maryland shot the ball so well early was UW’s inability to protect the lane, as 18 of Maryland’s 36 first-half points came in the paint.
Melo Trimble led all scorers with 21 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field and 3-for-7 from 3-point range. Showalter played good defense on Trimble by managing to keep the talented sophomore in front of him, but the Maryland point guard took advantage of Showalter playing off him on the final possession to connect on a long 3-pointer to win the game.
Robert Carter was second with 14 points and Diamond Stone finished with 11 points off the bench.
Wisconsin’s defense was able to provide good pressure on Maryland by forcing 16 turnovers, the seventh straight game of forcing an opponent into double digit turnovers. Wisconsin scored 18 points off the extra possessions and registers eight steals by four different players. Happ registered a career-high three steals, giving him a steal in 10 straight games.
Not able to afford many second-chance opportunities on offense, UW limited the Terrapins to five offensive rebounds and only five second-chance points. UW also made scoring in the paint a little more difficult, allowing Maryland 10 points around the rim and 28 for the game.
In another game Wisconsin could have won, the Badgers couldn’t make enough of the little plays to find a way to get it done against a talented Maryland team. While Wisconsin’s defense struggled to defend Trimble in the second half, they found ways to keep the other scoring threats for Maryland in check.
Despite trailing by eight points with 1:36 to go, the Badgers kept fighting. Wisconsin was aided by two timely 3-pointers by Showalter and Koenig. The made three by Showalter at 1:05 cut the lead to three and Koenig’s three with 23 seconds left tied the game at 60. Maryland helped matters by going 2-for-4 from the free throw line in the final 1:28.
But it is hard to win games when UW struggles to convert on layups and from the free throw line, preventing them from string together consecutive scoring possessions. The Badgers had chances of building a lead bigger than one point, but it seemed like the offense was rushed and got away from what allowed Wisconsin to be in the position they were in.
Some of the best offense came when Happ was moving well without the ball. Maryland started doing a better job of taking it away, but Happ also disappeared on offense. His last made field goal came at the 12:11 mark in the second half and didn’t attempt another shot the rest of the game.
For the second time this year Wisconsin lost a rebounding battle (34-32) but gave themselves second chances on offense. UW finished the game with 11 offensive rebounds, resulting in only five points against Maryland’s length inside.
UW managed to limit the turnovers to eight, resulting in Maryland scoring only 11 points off the miscues and just four off the fast break.
Game MVP: Zak Showalter. With Wisconsin’s offense looking for some kind of consistency in the second half, Showalter provided a list by going 4-for-5 from the field and leading the team with nine second-half points. Over the last 10 minutes of the game, Showalter was one of just three players to score and one of two players to make a field goal. With Wisconsin down 56-48, Showalter registered a steal against Trimble that resulted in a layup, the start of a stretch where Showalter scored seven of the team’s next nine points to help Wisconsin get back in the game.