No. 21 Maryland hopes slide stops with Northwestern
Two Big Ten teams desperately hoping to regain lost momentum clash Tuesday when Northwestern visits No. 21 Maryland in College Park, Md.
The Terrapins (16-5, 7-3 Big Ten) are coming off their most disappointing setback of what has been a surprisingly successful season, falling 78-67 to unranked Illinois at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. It was the second loss in a row for Maryland, which peaked at No. 13 in last week's AP poll.
"We weren't very good, especially when the game was on the line -- turnovers," said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. "I thought what really hurt us for the second game in a row was transition defense."
The Terps committed 21 turnovers, 15 in the second half Saturday, and have the second-highest average in the conference with 13.4 per contest. Maryland also has one of the youngest teams in the country with five freshmen and two sophomores among the top eight in the rotation.
Experience isn't a problem for Northwestern (12-8, 3-6).
The Wildcats started three seniors, a graduate student and a redshirt junior in their 62-46 loss at Wisconsin on Saturday. That was the second loss in a row for coach Chris Collins' team, which had previously won back-to-back contests.
Northwestern has three 1,000-career point scorers in the lineup in seniors Vic Law and Dererk Pardon, and grad student Ryan Taylor. The 6-foot-8 Pardon will be a key inside contending with Maryland sophomore Bruno Fernando, who is averaging 14.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and shooting 67.4 percent from the field.
Law's 15.8 points per game leads a balanced Wildcat attack.
The Wildcats have been among the Big Ten's best defensive squads so far, yielding just 64.3 points per game, and that could be an edge against a Terrapins team suddenly struggling on offense.
The Terrapins have scored no more than 67 points in three of their past four games, and leading scorer Anthony Cowan hit just 16 of 49 shots over that stretch. Maryland has lost consecutive games for the first time this season.
The Wildcats' defense will keep an eye on Maryland freshman Eric Ayala, leading the conference with 46.4 percent shooting from 3-point range. Northwestern is allowing just 28.8 percent shooting beyond the arc, second in the conference defensively.
Offensively, Northwestern hopes redshirt junior Aaron Falzon bounces back from a six-point effort in Madison to play like he did in a breakout win over Indiana, when he had a career-high 21 points in 20 minutes and earned a starting spot against Wisconsin.
"I got a little emotional, because that's how much I care about the kid," Collins said of the injury-plagued Falzon. "He loves to be in the gym. He cares and there are a lot of guys who don't care as much as he does, and he's the one who gets punished with injury. I always get heartbroken by that."
Rebounding will be another key Tuesday in Xfinity Center. The Terrapins have a plus-10 margin per game (second in the Big Ten to perennial backboard bully Michigan State), while Northwestern is 12th in the conference, out-rebounded by 0.8 per game.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 28, 2019