Since the Maryland men’s basketball team joined the Big Ten in 2014, it’s maintained a fierce back-and-forth rivalry with Wisconsin fueled by each program’s on-court success.
The Badgers made a national title game and two Sweet 16 appearances, while the Terps reached the NCAA tournament three straight years, including a Sweet 16 visit in the 2015-16 campaign.
In 2015, Maryland upset then-No. 5 Wisconsin at Xfinity Center, prompting fans to storm the court. In 2016, former Terps guard Melo Trimble hit a game-winning 3-pointer in Madison. The Badgers took the next two meetings, however, evening the tally.
While neither team entered this season ranked, both were expected to finish in the top-half of the Big Ten and qualify for the NCAA tournament. That made this year’s bout something to look forward to after conference schedules were announced in August.
Only when the contest arrived on Sunday, it hardly mattered.
Wisconsin has been atrocious this season, entering play 10-14 and on pace for its worst record in decades. Maryland has only been slightly better, losing five of its previous six games to sabotage its own tournament hopes.
Beating Wisconsin 68-63 would normally give the Terps a jolt of pride and positive momentum. Instead, the narrow victory over the sorry Badgers amounted to little more than a shrug of the shoulders and an acknowledgement that Maryland’s nose-diving postseason aspirations remain barely intact.
Guard Anthony Cowan: A
Cowan hasn’t played fewer than 39 minutes since Jan. 11, when he played 35 against Ohio State. He’s averaging more than 36 minutes per game, a workload that’s seemed to erode his offensive production in recent weeks. But with little rest against Wisconsin, he amassed a team-high 23 points, including four clutch free throws to seal the win.
Guard Kevin Huerter: A-
Huerter was bound to go cold from 3-point range eventually, having drained multiple deep balls in 17 of his past 18 games. Even though he went 1-for-5 from three, he contributed in other ways, still scoring 19 points and taking care of the ball with four assists to one turnover.
Guard Jared Nickens: B
Nickens only took two shots, but they were both 3-pointers and they both went in, giving the Terps an important boost off the bench. As usual, the rest of his stat sheet was pretty barren, but as the second unit’s designated deep ball, he did his job well.
Guard Darryl Morsell: B-
On offense, Morsell took a big step back from how he’s played recently, turning the ball over four times and making just one field goal. But he made his presence felt at the other end with two blocks, a steal and suffocating perimeter defense.
Forward Bruno Fernando: C
Fernando struggled to hold onto the ball throughout the game, regularly fumbling rebounds and turning it over. His performance ultimately didn’t cost the Terps against a subpar opponent, but he’ll need to play a more assured style of basketball for Maryland to make a strong late season run.