Maryland men’s basketball survives in double-overtime duel with Northwestern, 94-87

For a fleeting moment, it seemed as if the Big Ten battle would never end.

A last minute six-point Northwestern swing squandered Maryland men’s basketball’s late advantage, and one overtime period wasn’t enough to decide a victor between the two squads. Fatigue began to set in for both the Terps and Wildcats, with either team in dire need of a spark as the marathon matchup inched closer to its conclusion.

Finally, with time winding down in the game’s second overtime period, Maryland found one last gasp of energy to push past Northwestern in the Terps’ 94-87 double-overtime road victory.

With under two minutes remaining in the period and the Terps clinging to a four-point edge, an Xavier Green 3-pointer clanged harmlessly off of the rim. Hakim Hart sprang into action, leaving his feet to collect an offensive rebound and extend Maryland’s possession.

It was the first of three key offensive rebounds that pushed the game out of reach for interim head coach Danny Manning’s squad. Moments later, back-to-back 3-point misses were snatched out of the air by Green as the clock continued to wane, denying the opportunity for the Wildcats to pull off yet another miracle comeback.

Four Fatts Russell free throws sealed the Maryland win on the opposite end of the floor, and Manning and the Terps walked out of Welsh-Ryan Arena with their first conference victory of the 2021-22 season in thrilling fashion.

“I’m proud of the resiliency of the guys on this team,” Manning said following his team’s miraculous victory. “I’m very happy for our guys because they’ve continued to battle.”

Both the Wildcats and Terps came out of the gates at a sluggish pace, with neither team able to find its rhythm in the opening moments of the first half. Four Maryland turnovers opened the door for a possible Northwestern run, but a bevy of missed shots from the Wildcats allowed the Terps to stay within striking distance.

Hakim Hart kept Manning’s squad afloat offensively during its offensive lull, pitching in seven of Maryland’s first 11 points to parry a trio of Northwestern 3-pointers. Coming off of an 11-point performance in the Terps’ loss to Wisconsin on Sunday, Hart finished with 10 points in just the first half of Wednesday’s battle at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Finally, both squads found their groove.

After missing his first four shots, Maryland guard Eric Ayala converted on a 3-pointer to break out of his shooting slump. Moments later, Ayala gifted the Terps their first lead of the half after a confident roll to the basket amounted to a smooth layup.

The Wildcats would eventually respond, knotting the game at 30 as the half reached its end. With both Big Ten squads desperate to snap multiple-game losing skids, the back-and-forth slugfest finished as it began — a draw.

Hart continued to push the pace for the Terps coming out of the break, driving home a layup through contact to Ayala’s delight. Two quick Fatts Russell 3-pointers opened up a brief four-point Maryland edge, which was quickly erased by a 6-0 Northwestern run in return.

After a lengthy Northwestern possession which featured multiple Ryan Young offensive rebounds, Manning burned a timeout in need of a momentum boost with the clock waning.

And following the break, Ayala answered the call.

Two consecutive Ayala 3-pointers — the latter of which coming from well beyond the arc — catapulted the Terps back into contention. Ayala’s long range shot forced the Wildcats’ defense to play up near halfcourt on subsequent possessions, which allowed Maryland’s star guard to drive to the rim for a momentum-shifting and-one layup.

Ayala flexed in celebration on the ground after absorbing the contact, having put his team back up by four. Suddenly, the Terps stood just minutes away from their first win in 2022 on the road in Evanston, Illinois.

Then, disaster struck.

With Manning’s squad nursing a six-point lead with just 30 seconds remaining, a Donta Scott travel allowed Pete Nance to halve Maryland’s lead with a 3-pointer.

On the ensuing inbounds play, Scott committed a flagrant foul to give Northwestern two free throws and possession of the ball. In the blink of an eye, a 72-66 Maryland lead dissolved into a 72-72 tie as a Pete Nance free throw followed by a missed Ayala 3-pointer sent the game to overtime.

The first overtime period was representative of the game as a whole — both teams exchanged tough baskets with neither squad able to pull away from the other. After the first five minute frame, the Terps and Wildcats remained knotted at 83.

But after Maryland’s trio of clutch offensive boards late in the second overtime, Manning’s squad was finally able to pull away. 

Russell was dynamite in both overtime periods, racking up 13 of his 23 points in the extra minutes to will the Terps to victory. Ayala finished his career with a career-high 26 points, along with his first career double-double in Maryland’s first conference win of the season.