EVANSTON, IL— On Februrary 15, 2017, Mark Turgeon and the Maryland Terrapins payed a visit to Welsh-Ryan Arena to visit Northwestern. The Wildcats were coming off of a huge win against #7 Wisconsin on the road at the Kohl Center. With Scottie Lindsey out, Bryant McIntosh was playing nearly 40 minutes per game. Against the Badgers, the only time he saw the bench was during timeouts.
Northwestern had upset the Badgers in the Kohl Center for arguably their biggest win in program history. They were on the verge of punching their first ticket to the Big Dance. With 6 games left in their season, they needed to continue their dominance.
What a better test for that then the Terrapins?
Whenever Maryland and Northwestern play, it provides an exciting match up. Bryant McIntosh against Melo Trimble, and Dererk Pardon against Damonte Dodd are just two of the intriguing individual match-ups.
Northwestern had the momentum they needed even without Scottie Lindsey and they were ready for a tough test against the Terrapins.
Down ten at the half, Northwestern was struggling more than it showed on the scoreboard. Bryant McIntosh sat a lot in the first half with three fouls and only two points. The junior leader of the Wildcats was struggling while Maryland’s leader, Melo Trimble, was having quite a night.
Nothing Northwestern did seemed to contain Melo Trimble. Vic Law, Northwestern’s best defender looked fatigued after chasing him around on the court. Trimble would go on to score 32 points in the game, a career high for him.
Northwestern showed a fight and tried their best to win, but coming off of a record-setting performance against the Badgers, the Wildcats were tired.
Fast forward to March 10, 2017 in Washington D.C., where things looked a lot different.
On Thursday, Northwestern cruised past Rutgers, winning 83-61. On Friday, the team would face a different test: the Maryland Terrapins again. Not only would this be a tough match up for Northwestern, but being that the Big Ten Tournament was in Washington D.C., the Terrapins were pretty much playing on their home court.
This time when the two teams met, Scottie Lindsey had returned to the lineup and Northwestern was coming off of quite the start to March.
The Wildcats started March by beating one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten, Michigan, at home. A back-and-forth game ended with “The Play” that will go down as one of the greatest in Northwestern history. The team won 10 conference games, which is what basketball analysts said would cash their first ticket to The Big Dance in program history.
Following their game against the Wolverines, Northwestern finished up their regular season at home in front of a nationally televised audience on CBS. Jim Nantz was in town and Welsh-Ryan Arena was the loudest it had been all season. In front of a sold out crowd, Northwestern celebrated senior day and the current juniors and seniors played their final game in Welsh- Ryan Arena before renovations began. Although Northwestern lost 69-65, the Wildcats knew their season was far from over.
On Friday, Northwestern took the court and played a complete 40 minutes. The Terrapins were playing their first game of the tournament, and they were no match for Northwestern.
Northwestern’s big three: Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, and Vic Law were on fire. All season long, when the three of them were clicking at the same time, Northwestern was unstoppable. Against Maryland, it showed again. Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law each had 17 points, while Bryant McIntosh was right behind them with 16 points and 6 assists.
Trimble had 20 points, but he was 0-4 from the three-point line, where he had hurt Northwestern in the first game. Collins always emphasizes that scorers should have to take a lot of shots to get their points when Northwestern is defending well. Trimble had to take 14 shots from the paint to make 7.
Northwestern won two games in the Big Ten Tournament, a first in program history.
So, Northwestern lost to Maryland and then beat Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament. What does it show?
Northwestern had to put together a complete 40 minutes of basketball in order to defeat Maryland, but they did it. They continued to improve and their shooting showed that when their playing well as a team and clicking on all cylinders, they can match up against any team in the country.
Although Northwestern didn’t necessarily need the win to make the NCAA Tournament, this game put an exclamation point on their season.
After three years of back-and-forth battles between two of the best guards in the Big Ten in Bryant McIntosh and Melo Trimble, Northwestern beat Maryland for the first time. They showed they were ready, they came to compete, and they weren’t in the seminfinals by happenstance, they were there because they earned it. They earned the seed at the end of the season, earned the win, and earned their first bid in the NCAA Tournament.
The win shows that they didn’t give up after losing to Maryland. Although they only won two of their six final games of the regular season, they didn’t give up and they didn’t let those losses define them. The team continued to play and work hard.
Northwestern played like a different team the second game. They went on runs, used locked-in defense to prevent Maryland from going on runs, and they never let the lead Maryland built get too far out of reach.
Above all, Northwestern showed they were ready for March.
In their best season in program history, Northwestern added another item to the list: their first win against Maryland.
What will they do this March?
Only time will tell.