Maryland crushed by Wisconsin, 87-56, in Big Ten tournament second round

Maryland men’s basketball got a taste of its own medicine.

Less than 24 hours after trouncing Rutgers, the Terps were on the receiving end of a 87-56 lashing by Wisconsin in a Big Ten tournament second-round game Thursday at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Badgers (20-12), the No. 5 seed in the tournament, connected on their first six 3-point attempts and shot 64.3% in the first half en route to scoring 47 points and earning a 21-point advantage by halftime. They enjoyed 25 assists on 31 buckets, and Maryland (16-17), the No. 12 seed, never got closer in the second half.

Fifth-year senior point guard Jahmir Young scored 18 points and added three steals and two rebounds in his final college game. Freshman shooting guard DeShawn-Harris scored all 16 of his points in the second half and chipped in three assists, and junior power forward Julian Reese collected 10 points and five rebounds. But the Terps lost for the ninth time in their past 12 games and will miss the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the past five seasons.

Freshman shooting guard John Blackwell came off the bench to pace Wisconsin with 14 of his 18 points in the first half and five rebounds, and junior center Steven Crowl compiled 17 points, three rebounds and two assists. The Badgers advanced to a quarterfinal against No. 4 seed Northwestern (21-10) on Friday at 2:30 p.m.

Here are three observations from Thursday’s game.

Maryland’s vaunted defense was no match for Wisconsin’s 3-point fireworks

The 3-point shot troubled Terps on offense all season. It proved to be their downfall on defense, too.

The Badgers were simply outstanding from 3-point range, which helped them score the most points in a Big Ten tournament game in program history. They converted 64% of their long-distance tries, and their 16 makes on 25 attempts were a season high.

Wisconsin’s 10 3-pointers on 13 attempts in the first half were one shy of a program record. The offense did not miss its first 3-point try until there was 9:30 left in the opening frame when junior shooting guard Max Klesmit’s shot was off-target.

Blackwell hit all four of his 3-point attempts in the first half, Crowl — a 7-foot, 247-pound center — went 3 for 3, and junior point guard Chucky Hepburn and sophomore shooting guards AJ Storr and Connor Essegian each provided a pair of 3-pointers. In all, seven Wisconsin players made at least one long-distance shot.

Entering the game, Maryland had surrendered a Big Ten-low 5.1 3-pointers per game and limited opponents to converting just 31.3% of their 3-point shots, which ranked second in the conference. But the defense had few answers against a Badgers machine that was merciless from the perimeter.

Maryland looked spent on offense

Few offenses would have been able to match Wisconsin’s explosion. But the Terps didn’t seem to have the legs to even appear competitive.

Maybe the lack of offense could be traced to having to defeat Rutgers, 65-51, on Wednesday night just for an opportunity to continue in the Big Ten tournament. But Maryland misfired on 34 of 56 shots to end with a .393 field goal percentage and trudged into droughts of 3:02 and 3:47 in the first half that the Badgers pounced on for leads of 18-7 and 34-15, respectively.

And the Terps, who ranked second in the conference in free-throw attempts per game at 23.3, finished with only 10 trips to the line, making six. They didn’t take their first free throw until senior small forward Jordan Geronimo stepped to the line with 10:41 left in the second half.

With senior backup point guard Jahari Long out because of a right knee injury suffered with 50.5 seconds left in Wednesday night’s win, Maryland’s bench players provided only five points. That was in stark contrast to a group of Wisconsin reserves that accounted for 37 points.

The Badgers usually relied on their offense to win this winter. But they improved to 16-0 when holding foes to 70 or fewer points and 13-2 when limiting opponents to less than 45% shooting.

The offseason questions will be plentiful for Maryland

Few people would envy the work that lies ahead for coach Kevin Willard and his coaching staff.

Young scored 1,205 points in two seasons, and fifth-year senior small forward Donta Scott is one of only five players in school history to record 1,500 points and 800 rebounds in a career. How the program replaces their production will be significant.

Reese, a Randallstown native and St. Frances graduate, wrapped up a campaign with 16 double-doubles. Convincing him to remain with the team and avoid entering the transfer portal is another priority.

Baltimore native Derik Queen, a 6-foot-10, 245-pound center and five-star prospect who played at St. Frances, is expected to join Reese in the middle of next year’s team. There is also hope that the freshman class of shooting guards DeShawn Harris-Smith (7.0 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 32 games, including 29 starts entering Thursday) and Jahnathan Lamothe (St. Frances), small forward Jamie Kaiser Jr. (4.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game in 32 appearances, including four starts) and 7-0 center Braden Pierce (redshirt) will have gained enough seasoning to validate the No. 15 ranking bestowed upon it before the season.

The one element of the game that the Terps must improve is their perimeter shooting. Maybe the return of sophomore shooting guard Chance Stephens from a serious knee injury that kept him out all season will help, but they need to fortify that area of the game if they expect to make any waves next year.