EVANSTON, Ill. — With 20.2 seconds on the clock and Maryland trailing by one, everybody in Welsh-Ryan Arena knew whose hands the ball would be in.
Jahmir Young was up to 34 points on 12-for-18 shooting — after two injury scares in the first half, the fifth-year guard ended up notching one of the best games of his career.
Young took the ball up the court and faced pressure from Northwestern’s defense. After crossing back and forth, he pulled up for a mid-range shot over Wildcats guard Boo Buie with six seconds to go. It rolled across the rim but unlike most of his attempts on Wednesday, it didn’t fall.
The teams would trade free throws from there and the Terps would never have a chance to fire off the equalizing three. When the final buzzer sounded, Maryland men’s basketball fell to Northwestern, 72-69.
“I thought we gave great effort, that was a good basketball game,” Willard said. “Buie and Jahmir we’re playing, went back and forth. We gave ourselves a chance to have a shot to win it, and that’s all you can ask for on the road against a very good basketball team.”
Young finished with 36 points, the second-best mark of his career, while Buie led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 20 points and dishing out seven assists. The two all-conference guards traded buckets late in the close contest — neither team led by more than six points at any point on Wednesday.
“[Buie is] a great player and he played well tonight, both scoring and getting his teammates involved,” Young said. “We had trouble staying in front of him when he was getting downhill, and execution down the stretch, that’s why we came out with the loss.”
Forward Jordan Geronimo opened the scoring by sinking a corner three and tallied five of the Terps’ first seven points. He was one of only four Maryland players to score against Northwestern as the Terps got zero points from their bench against the Wildcats.
Then came Young’s injury scares. The fifth-year senior hit the deck hard after contesting a shot and remained in the game, but was subbed out after tweaking his ankle shortly after.
The Terps’ star guard checked back in after sitting briefly, and if Young was still dealing with any pain, he didn’t show it.
Young scored the second-most points for Maryland at the break behind Donta Scott’s nine. Scott shot 3-for-3 from three-point range as the Terps went 4-for-9 from three and 13-for-22 from the field.
The Terps’ issue in the opening 20 minutes wasn’t their shooting, like it has been throughout the early parts of their season. Despite a more efficient half than Northwestern, who shot 13-for-30 from the field, Maryland trailed at halftime, 32-28.
Maryland struggled to hold onto the ball after one of its tidiest performances of the season. The Terps notched just seven turnovers in their last outing at then-No. 10 Illinois, but it only took 12 minutes for Maryland to surpass that mark on Wednesday night, with five of the first eight coming from forward Julian Reese.
Young fueled a quick Maryland run coming out of the break, scoring seven points in the first four minutes of the half and tying the game at 39 apiece. He reached 20 points for the fifth time in his last six games as he nearly willed Maryland to another crucial road win.
The Wildcats weren’t significantly more efficient from the floor in the final 20 minutes, but they were able to get to the line frequently as both teams entered the bonus early in the second half. Northwestern only attempted two free throws in the first, but went 16-for-20 from the line after the break.
It was similar for Maryland, who didn’t go to the line in the first but had 18 attempts in the second half.
The Terps trailed Northwestern by one or two possessions for the majority of the final 20 minutes.
Maryland was down by five points with just over four minutes to go before Geronimo nailed his second triple of the night. The Indiana transfer entered the night shooting 11.1 percent from beyond the arc but was 2-for-3 from deep on Wednesday in one of his performances as a Terp.
“Obviously I haven’t been shooting the ball the best, and I know can shoot the ball, so seeing the ball go through the net is a good feeling,” Geronimo said. “… Spacing the floor was important, that’s why I was able to get open shots, and just playing hard. [But] we wanted to end this road trip with two W’s, but obviously didn’t end the way we wanted.”
Geronimo’s stellar effort came on both sides of the ball, as he grabbed seven boards and tallied three blocks. Perhaps his biggest moment came with just over a minute and a half to go, where his defense on Northwestern’s Nick Martinelli forced a shot clock violation.
Young and Buie then traded baskets before Young converted on what might’ve been his best shot of the game, swishing an off-balance three to grab a one-point lead.
Despite Young’s heroics, the Terps were unable to muster their second straight road victory on Wednesday after beating then-No. 10 Illinois on Sunday. Maryland now sits at 1-3 in quad one games this season and will have another opportunity to boost its resume with its fifth contest of the sort on Sunday, when the Terps host Michigan State.