Date/Time – Saturday, February 13, 5:30 p.m. central
Arena – Xfinity Center (17,950)
Television – ESPN (Bob Wischusen and Stephanie White)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Wisconsin leads 5-4 (Maryland leads 2-1 in College Park, MD)
Last Meeting – Maryland won, 63-60, on January 9, 2016, in Madison
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 7.6 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 17.3 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.9 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 13.3 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 9.0 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 3.2 ppg)
15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 2.9 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 2.8 ppg)
24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.8 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Brown has scored at least nine points in four straight games with career-high 18 points (3-for-3 3FGs) on Wednesday vs. Nebraska. Brown is averaging 12.0 ppg and shooting 6-for- 10 from 3-point range over the last four games.
MARYLAND PROBABLE STARTERS
0 Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4 Senior Guard, 11.1 ppg)
2 Melo Trimble (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 14.4 ppg)
4 Robert Carter Jr. (6-9 Junior Forward, 12.9 ppg)
10 Jack Layman (6-9 Senior Forward, 10.3 ppg)
33 Diamond Stone (6-11 Freshman Center, 13.0 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
11 Jared Nickens (6-7 Sophomore Forward, 5.4 ppg)
15 Michal Cekovsky (7-1 Sophomore Center, 2.8 ppg)
35 Damonte Dodd (6-11 Junior Forward, 3.4 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Stone has scored in double figures in 18 of his past 21 contests. The Milwaukee native leads the Terps in scoring in conference play, averaging 14.7 points per game. He has a team-high four double-doubles in league play.
LAST TIME OUT
MADISON – A sluggish night was rescued by the perimeter jump shot, as the Badgers scored 33 points from behind the arc to distance itself from Nebraska in the second half in a 72-61 victory at the Kohl Center Wednesday.
With the toughest part of their schedule now on the horizon, playing three of its next four on the road and all against teams currently ranked in the top 10, the Badgers extended their winning streak to six thanks to going 11-for-18 from the perimeter against the Huskers, including 7-for-12 in the second half.
“We’re just taking advantage of the way that people are playing us,” said forward Nigel Hayes. “Going back to the beginning of the year, we weren’t the best team with our spacing. That was a problem for us … We just make sure that we’re always ready to shoot as we can always shoot the ball.”
And surprisingly, the biggest weapon for the Badgers was junior Vitto Brown, who continues his sudden resurgence with a career-high 18 points that included a career-high three 3-pointers. A 28.2 percent 3-point shooter entering the night, Brown had made only three 3-pointers the entire Big Ten season, but hit two big ones in the first half when UW’s stagnate offense needed a boost.
He also dabbled around the rim, taking a feed from forward Alex Illikainen for a one-handed right hand slam to put the Badgers up 53-40 with 9:32 to go. It was the largest lead in the game to that point and finally injected some life into what had been a stagnate building.
Hayes led all scorers with 20, Bronson Koenig had 11 and Zak Showalter finished with 10 to help Wisconsin stay in sixth place the Big Ten (two out of first, half out of fourth) with seven games to go.
Brown and Hayes carried the offense through a sloppy first half in which shooting was sluggish against Nebraska’s 2-3 zone, ball control was spotty and defense was inconsistent. The two juniors split Wisconsin’s first 16 points, combined for 22 of UW’s 30 first-half points and didn’t get help from another source until Jordan Hill’s 3-pointer with 6:55 remaining.
The entire offense came alive after halftime. Following a layup by Glynn Watson Jr. (team-high 16 points) to cut the lead to 30-28, Wisconsin hit four 3-pointers on the next five possessions to push the lead to 10. Over the final 16-plus minutes, UW’s lead never dipped below six and stayed in double figures for the final 11:32.
MADISON – Another day, another team, the same frustrating home result for 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 eight-minute 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.
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.
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.
This is the third time since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten. The Terps have won each of the last two meetings by an average of 4.5 points.
UW suffered a 59-53 loss a year ago in its most recent visit to College Park, one of only two losses to Big Ten teams last season.
The Badgers and Terrapins have met in some noteworthy circumstances over the last 15 years. Wisconsin’s 78-75 overtime win in the 2000 Big Ten/ ACC Challenge marked Dick Bennett’s final game coaching at UW. The 2002 meeting, an 87-57 Terps win, came in the second round of the NCAA tournament en route to Maryland’s 2002 National Championship.
Including a win over No. 4 MSU (1/17), UW has won seven of its last 10 games vs. teams in the AP top five. During that span, no other Big Ten team has a winning record or more than five top-5 wins.
Including this season (4-4), the Badgers have the most road/neutral wins and second-best win pct away from home of any major conference team (last three years). UW is 41-12 (.774) away from the Kohl Center in that span.
Including a three-point loss to Maryland Jan.9, UW’s four Big Ten losses have come by an average of 3.8 points. Overall, the Badgers have played a total of eight games decided by three points or less, second most in the nation.
Dating back to February of 2011, UW is 132-5 (.964) when leading or tied with 5:00 left, including a mark of 15-1 this season. UW lost to Milwaukee when leading 58-55 at the 5:00 mark.
The Terps are one of only two teams (USC) in NCAA Division I basketball to have all five starters notch at least one double-double this season. Maryland has tallied 11 double-doubles this season after recording eight in all of 2014-15.
Maryland is the only team in the Big Ten to have five players averaging 10 or more points per game.
Maryland leads the nation in wins (19-2) in games decided by six points or less over the last two seasons.
Sulaimon has scored in double figures in four his last five games. Sulaimon is averaging 14.4 points per game during the Terps’ current five-game winning streak. He had a game-high 16 points against Bowie State Tuesday.
Nigel Hayes has never been one to spend a lot of time looking at bracket projections. He’s never been one to focus on winning streaks either, only looking at how his team can improve upon the mistakes they made the game before.
“It’s not something we really care about; we just try to make sure we win games and get better,” said Hayes. “We know we’re getting better. We’re playing well now. We know we can play with any team in the country and give them a great game.”
The Badgers’ six game winning streak has been positive on many levels: it validates Greg Gard as future head coach, shows that the Badgers have a lot of young talent that could make them title contenders again and has put them back in the N.C.A.A. tournament discussion.
But while they are in the discussion, they likely wouldn’t be in the tournament if it started today. According to Scout.com Bracketologist Kyle Reichert, Wisconsin is the first team out of the field of 68. Why? On UW’s six game winning streak the Badgers have a great win (Michigan State), a good win (Indiana), a bubble win (Ohio State) and avoided a bunch of bad losses (Illinois, Nebraska and Penn State). Furthermore, UW won all the big games at home, where the Badgers still win 89.1 percent of their games since 2001, and only have one win against the RPI top 100 (Syracuse – 37).
Now if the Badgers surprise Maryland and register the upset, Reichert said Wisconsin would jump into the field, likely playing in the First Four games in Dayton, OH, as a No.12 seed.
Selection Sunday is a month from today, and there’s no question the Badgers need more just one more win to cement their tournament status. Why is UW currently out? Bad losses are killing them. No one on the bubble has a group of losses as bad as Western Illinois, Milwaukee, Marquette and Northwestern. Therefore, UW needs to start padding its profile with impressive wins. UW needs to win its final two games at home (Illinois Feb.21 and Michigan Feb.28), win at horrendous Minnesota and win its first game in the Big Ten tournament. That would get them to 19 wins.
That likely still wouldn’t be enough, meaning UW would have to win at least one Big Ten road game against a ranked team and be competitive in all of them. What’s the magic number for wins? If UW got to 22 victories, that could seal the bid. Of course, registering its highest-ranked road win since 2013 would be a nice start.
It’s hard to figure out what side of the ball Maryland is stronger on. On offense the Terps lead the Big Ten in free throw percentage (.763), is second in field goal percentage (.497) and fifth in three-point FG percentage (.358). On defense Maryland leads the Big Ten in scoring defense (63.8 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.385), three-point field goal percent defense (.272) and blocked shots (72) during league play.
Wisconsin quickly fell behind the eight ball last season at Maryland because the Badgers didn’t execute their game of touching the post, drawing fouls and being aggressive, instead setting for outside shots. To a degree that same low post problem popped up in Madison last month, as UW let Maryland shot 59.3 percent in the first half without making a 3-pointer. UW also only went 5-for-11 from the free throw line. While UW has improved in both those areas on the winning streak, they haven’t done it against a team capable of winning the national title.
Can Wisconsin win today? I would be surprised if they did, but I wouldn’t be shocked. Simply put, Maryland is too good at home and will win by 10.
Worgull's Record: 18-6
Points off Prediction: 210 (9.0 per game)