20-2 run in second half propels NU into Big Ten semifinals
WASHINGTON — It was a night when the crowd considered anyone wearing purple to be the enemy — even loveable actress Julia-Louis Dreyfus.
Facing No. 25 Maryland on a court that was anything but neutral, Northwestern added another milestone in an already magical season.
Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law each scored 17 points, and Northwestern pulled off a 72-64 upset Friday night to earn a berth in semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in school history.
Down by 10 points early in the second half, the Wildcats (23-10) took control with a 20-2 run that all but silenced an arena that earlier produced the loudest cheers of the first Big Ten Tournament held in the nation’s capital.
“With their crowd going crazy, we could have easily just said, ‘Oh, let’s just pack it in. Let’s just go home and hope we make the tournament,’” Law said. “But we’re playing for something better. We’re playing for our name and for the Big Ten Tournament title.”
Having already defeated Rutgers and No. 3 seed Maryland, Northwestern on Saturday will face second-seed Wisconsin, a 70-60 winner over Indiana.
Though this was technically considered to be a neutral court, Maryland (24-8) enjoyed many of the benefits of playing at home following a double bye to start the tournament.
Not only is the Verizon Center a mere 10 miles from the Terrapins’ home court, but Maryland previously played at this arena this season, beating Georgetown in November.
Much more significant: A vast majority of the fans in the biggest crowd of the week wore red and cheered very loudly for the Terrapins, who were in their home white uniforms.
During a timeout, the scoreboard focused on Louis-Dreyfus, whose son Charlie Hall plays for Northwestern. The crowd booed lustily.
“It’s all in fun. Good intentioned, I think,” Hall said. “Didn’t bother me too much. And we got the win, which is really the important thing, so I guess the Hall family wins in the end.”
In spite of the backing of the crowd, the proximity to their own arena and their earlier win over Northwestern, the Terps fizzled when it counted.
“We had a good crowd there. That was the best I’ve seen them all year,” Maryland guard Melo Trimble said. “Unfortunately, we lost. But we have another week to prepare for a bigger tournament.”
In spite of the loss, the Terrapins will be headed to the NCAA Tournament. So will Northwestern, which has already set a school record for wins in a season.
“I don’t really think that we realize what we’re doing right now,” Lindsey said. “I think, you know, after the season, a couple years down the road, we’ll realize what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished.”
After opening the second half with eight straight points to take a 44-34 lead, Maryland went 1 for 7 with six turnovers over an eight-minute span while being outscored 20-2. Lindsey scored seven points during the run and Bryant McIntosh contributed five points.
Maryland went nearly 6½ minutes without scoring until freshman Anthony Cowan ended the drought with a 3-pointer from the right corner with 7:02 to go.
The Terrapins closed to 56-53 but simply couldn’t keep pace with the Wildcats, who outscored Maryland 38-20 over the final 16 minutes.
Trimble scored 20 points for the Terrapins, but committed six turnovers. Freshman Kevin Huerter had 19 points and Cowan added 13.
Northwestern: The Wildcats keep surprising people and basketball teams. They’re making a strong case to receive a decent seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland: A disappointing defeat leaves the Terrapins hoping the selection committee won’t treat them too rudely when drawing up the brackets Sunday night.
Northwestern: The Wildcats beat Wisconsin on the road last month.
Maryland: The Terps will next play in the NCAA Tournament.