Tale of two halves: Badgers’ horrid start too much to overcome in 64-60 loss to Terrapins
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – What figures to be one of the more challenging work weeks of the season for the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team began Monday night at the XFINITY Center.
The Badgers didn’t exactly enter the building brimming with confidence after losing three of their previous four games.
Make it four of five after a heartbreaking 64-60 setback against No. 19 Maryland, which needed some major heroics from junior guard Anthony Cowan to extend its winning streak to six games.
Cowan scored 19 of his game-high 21 points after halftime. After the Badgers erased a 21-point deficit in the second half and briefly took the lead, Cowan hit a cold-blooded 3-pointer with 44.9 seconds remaining to put the Terrapins (15-3, 6-1 Big Ten) back in front for good.
Nate Reuvers scored all of his career-high 18 points in the second half and also finished with a career-best seven rebounds. But the sophomore forward was in the dumps after the game because he missed two open looks from 3-point range down the stretch.
Although those late misses will get magnified, the reason the Badgers (11-6, 3-3) lost was because of a horrible first half. It was truly a tale of two halves for the Badgers on the offensive end: They averaged a pathetic 0.5 points per possession in the first half and a robust 1.45 in the second half.
“It’s tough, because we know how good we can be,” Reuvers said. “We’ve just got to put it together for 40 minutes. We should have won that game, even with all the mistakes we had in the first half.”
UW missed its first 10 attempts from 3-point range before getting hot in the second half. The Badgers made 11 of their next 17, with Reuvers connecting four times from beyond the arc during that stretch, but ended the hot-and-cold performance by missing their final three attempts.
“The execution was as good as it’s been in a while,” UW coach Greg Gard said of how well UW’s offense flowed in the second half. “I thought we really moved the ball, we shared it, we got it to the right people. Obviously, it helps when you make shots, but shots usually go in because of good execution. It’s not by accident.”
As pretty as UW’s offense looked after halftime, it was just as ugly in the opening half.
Eleven days after scoring 14 points in the first half of a home loss to Minnesota, the Badgers managed only 15 in the opening 20 minutes against the Terrapins.
UW shot 26.9 percent from the field in the opening half, missed all eight of its attempts from 3-point range, went 1 of 4 from the free throw line and committed seven turnovers in 30 possessions. The Badgers got off to a decent start offensively but scored five points over their final 22 possessions of the first half, including 10 consecutive empty possessions at one point.
“We were terrific defensively for about 25, 28 minutes, then Wisconsin turned it on,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “Man, were they good in the second half. We lost some shooters, made some mistakes.”
Sophomore point guard D’Mitrik Trice added 13 points for UW, which also got 11 from sophomore guard Brad Davison and 10 from senior center Ethan Happ.
After falling behind 37-16 early in the second half, UW used an 8-0 run to cut Maryland’s lead to 10 points with just over 8 minutes remaining.
Reuvers scored all eight points during the burst – Happ was on the bench with four fouls – by sandwiching a pair of 3-pointers around a putback basket.
A 3-pointer by Davison cut Maryland’s lead to 57-52, redshirt freshman wing Kobe King made it a one-possession game by making a pair of free throws and Reuvers tied it with a 3-pointer.
Cowan made two free throws to help the Terrapins regain the lead, but Davison answered with a 3-pointer from the left corner out of a timeout to give UW a 60-59 lead with 2 minutes, 2 seconds remaining.
After UW got a stop on defense, Davison had a chance to add to the lead but missed a 3-pointer from the left wing.
Cowan made it hurt with a clutch play on the ensuing possession.
During an earlier timeout, Turgeon had instructed his players to essentially get out of Cowan’s way if the shot clock was winding down. The Terps listened, and Cowan drained a 3-pointer over Trice to give the Terrapins a 62-60 lead with 44.9 seconds remaining.
Trice probably could have done a better job contesting the shot, but Cowan deserves credit for making it.
“Those are the ones he makes,” Turgeon said of Cowan, who scored 19 of Maryland’s 25 points over the final 17:09. “It was terrific.”
After Reuvers missed a wide-open 3-pointer, Darryl Morsell made a free throw to give Maryland a three-point lead.
UW called a timeout with 11.6 seconds left as its possession was going haywire and set up a play. Trice found Reuvers on a pick-and-pop, but the wide-open look rattled around the rim before missing.
A free throw by Cowan with 1.3 seconds remaining sealed Maryland’s sixth consecutive win.
In addition to its poor first half, UW couldn’t overcome getting outscored 24-3 at the free throw line. Maryland had 23 more attempts than the Badgers, who mostly blamed themselves for the 23-12 disparity in fouls.
Reuvers said the Badgers needed do a better job of using pump-fakes and drawing contact. He also admitted they used their hands too much on defense.
“Too many dumb fouls on the perimeter, just hand-checking,” Reuvers said. “Coach talks about that a lot. We’re going to foul a guy on some bang-bang plays, but we’ve got to get rid of those dumb fouls.”
It doesn’t get any easier for the Badgers, who host No. 2 Michigan on Saturday. The Wolverines will bring a 17-0 record to the Kohl Center.
“There’s not a moral victory attitude, I know that,” Gard said. “It’s quiet (in the locker room). They know they had a chance.
“It’s been a perfect example of how not to, and how to. When we get completely to the how-to side for 40 minutes, then we’ve got a chance to be a pretty good team. Until then, we’ll continue to learn some hard lessons.”