In the first Big Ten Tournament played in Washington, D.C., Maryland couldn’t capitalize.
The Terps lost 72-64 to Northwestern in the quarterfinals Friday night, in their first and last game of the tournament.
An ocean of red swallowed a puddle of purple at the Verizon Center, but the local fans filed out before the final buzzer.
The loss ends Maryland run at a championship early, a difficult reality for the team to accept.
“We were expecting to go in and play for three days, and now we’re not,” Kevin Huerter said.
Droughts morphed into famines as the Terps struggled mightily to post points in the second half, slowly sealing their fate.
After an 8-0 run out of the break, Northwestern outscored the Terps 36-13 over the next 15 minutes. Three times in the second half Maryland went on scoreless runs of at least two minutes, the longest stretching a little more than six minutes in the middle of the period.
Northwestern packed the paint, clogging the lane and forcing the Terps to fruitlessly prod at the perimeter.
“They took us out of our offense the whole game,” Melo Trimble said. “We weren’t able to run anything that we practiced.”
For many possessions, Maryland settled. The Terps passed the ball around the perimeter, ending trips in contested triples and meeting heavy resistance any time they drove the lane.
“We were just kind of going through the motions a little bit,” Mark Turgeon said.
But the chance in the Big Ten Tournament is gone, an opportunity lost for Maryland to show its worth in the conference.
“I think in this locker room all year we thought we were one of the best teams in the Big Ten,” Huerter explained. “Coming into this tournament, I think we really want to prove that we are still the best.”
The Terps had the crowd behind them. The loudest roar of the tournament came when Trimble’s name was announced in pregame, and the noise increased when Maryland showed signs of life throughout the game.
“It was nice just to hear the fans cheering for us,” Damonte Dodd said. “I wish we could have given them more.”
Maryland began the game as the crowd wanted, jumping out to an early 14-8 advantage, leading to a Northwestern timeout. Whatever head coach Chris Collins said during that timeout worked to perfection, literally.
The Wildcats made their next seven-straight shots. When a prayer from Scottie Lindsey somehow banked in for three, it seemed the stars had aligned for Northwestern.
A 20-4 run culminated in a 28-18 Northwestern lead. The crowd was stunned into silence, begging for the Terps to give it something to scream about.
It started with a Kevin Huerter layup in transition and ended with an L.G. Gill jumper at the halftime buzzer as Maryland dashed to a slim 36-34 advantage, its first in almost 12 minutes.
But that lead wouldn’t last. Now Maryland can only look forward to the NCAA Tournament next week. The Terps don’t know who or where they will play and won’t learn until Sunday, but Turgeon’s message for his team after the game applies no matter what gets thrown at them.
“[He] just said we have to play a whole lot better or our season is going to end pretty quick,” Huerter said.