In a defensive slugfest Wednesday night at the Kohl Center, Maryland was able to knock of No. 6 Wisconsin 70-64 behind a red hot second half shooting performance.
D’Mitrik Trice put up 25 for the Badgers on an efficient 8-14 shooting and 6-7 from the line, but the rest of Wisconsin’s offense shot just 39 percent from the field. Down the stretch in the second half Maryland was able to hit 11 of their last 12 field goal attempts, which ultimately sunk Wisconsin.
It was a disappointing result for the Badgers who had just been moved up to No. 6 in the most recent AP poll after a Christmas Day victory at No. 12 Michigan State.
Maryland was led by their guard tandem of Eric Ayala (17) and Aaron Wiggins (15) in scoring, though both were held to slightly below 50 percent from the field.
“We never were in sync, there were a lot of things that went wrong,” Head Coach Greg Gard said after the game. “I thought we were a step slow on both ends of the floor tonight.”
A lot has been made this season of the energy teams will have to bring to each game without fans in attendance, and tonight Maryland did a great job of firing up their players on the court. The Terrapins were up out of their seats nearly the entire game making noise — Wisconsin’s bench was nearly silent.
“We know we have a target on our back and we need to be more aggressive,” Aleem Ford said. “We knew they were going to come out with a ton of energy and if we matched that we would win, but the last few minutes showed what happened.”
Maryland’s energy translated to suffocating defense in the post, and Wisconsin struggled establishing themselves down low early on in the game. It led to a lot of contested three point attempts the Badgers felt they settled for.
“We didn’t really stick to our game plan to get down in the post, and it came back to bite us late in the game,” D’Mitrik Trice said. “Getting down there early is something we need to [work on], it's up to us guards and wings to get the ball down there when guys are wide open.”
Wisconsin was also uncharacteristically bad at the free throw line, hitting just over 50 percent on the night. At one point the Badgers were 5-12 from the charity stripe while the game was still within reach, a far cry from their season average of 77 percent from the line.
It’s a gut punch for the Badgers who had been flying high before the game, but in the Big Ten this season anything could happen. Nine of the fourteen teams were ranked in the top 25 by the most recent AP poll, and as many as 11 or 12 of those teams are projected to make the tournament in March.
“It’s better that this happens now rather than later,” Ford said. “We’ll go in and look at the film tomorrow, and we can learn from our experiences to be better in the long run.”
“Nobody’s gonna feel sorry for us, nobody is feeling sorry for themselves in the locker room right now,” Trice said.
Wisconsin’s next game is on New Years Eve against No. 21 Minnesota, who are coming off a win against previously No. 4 ranked Iowa and a beatdown of No. 17 Michigan State. Tip is scheduled for 3:30 p.m..