Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
When Maryland defeated Ohio State Jan. 31, it secured the school’s best start in program history. On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Terps travel to Evanston to face Northwestern, a team in the midst of its own historic season.
The Wildcats are fourth in the Big Ten with a 19-6 (8-4) record and are in good position for their first ever NCAA Tournament selection. The last time Northwestern finished better than seventh in the Big Ten was 1969.
Northwestern enters the game with momentum: the Wildcats bested the Badgers in Madison 66-59 Sunday, bouncing back from a two-game skid that had some questioning the team’s postseason possibilities. A win against a ranked Maryland would be a major step in getting the Wildcats into the Big Dance.
Maryland won’t have to deal with Northwestern’s leading scorer, junior guard Scottie Lindsey, who will reportedly miss his fourth consecutive game with mono. Without Lindsey’s 15.4 points per game, Northwestern looked to others to fill the void. Bryant McIntosh has answered the call.
The junior guard from Indiana has averaged nearly 23 points per game during Lindsey’s absence and will likely be required for a Wildcats win Wednesday.
“I think with Lindsey out, [McIntosh] was told to attack, and he attacked,” Mark Turgeon said. “He’s a very confident kid. He always has been from the first time we played him in this building.”
McIntosh’s has been scoring on a high volume of shots, averaging more than 20 per game in his last three outings. Turgeon said Maryland needs that trend to continue.
“If he gets 25 points, we want it to be on 23 shots like he took [against Wisconsin],” Turgeon said. “We don’t want it to be 25 on seven shots. Then they’re probably going to whip is pretty good. We’ll make him earn it.”
McIntosh isn’t a pure scorer, though. His 5.6 assists per game leads the Big Ten, rounding out his complete offensive game.
“I don’t think we’ve played a player like McIntosh this year,” Kevin Huerter said. “He’s really unselfish, but when he needs to, he can score. He can take over the game.”
Slowing down McIntosh is something Maryland will plan for, but the larger theme for Turgeon is improving defensively. He said he was happy with how his team guarded during its seven-game winning streak in January but hasn’t been satisfied with the defense lately.
Huerter said the Terps have gone “back to basics” to return to their defensive prowess.
“Literally getting through screens, going through shell drill, getting in the right help defenses,” Huerter said. “We feel like in the past couple of games, our defense hasn’t been where we think it needs to be if we want to make some sort of run at the end of the year.”
Wednesday’s matchup is the first of three-straight games for Maryland against top six teams in the conference, Northwestern, Wisconsin and Minnesota, with the first two on the road. The Terps have lived by the well-known one game at a time approach and will stick to that mantra, but they know what’s coming.
“These kids are smart,” Turgeon said. “It’s like when you’ve got a 6-year-old: you try to keep things from them they already know. These kids are 18 to 22. They know. They’ve been following basketball their whole life. Our guys know what lies ahead. We have to be ready to go tomorrow.”
Edited by Abigail Bentz
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