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November 27, 2012

Cats no challenge for Maryland

EVANSTON-If this what the Wildcats can expect from a Maryland program that will join the Big Ten in two years, maybe they can petition Jim Delany to rescind the invitation.

After all, not one wants to see a game like the Terrapins' 77-57 rout of Northwestern twice a year.

After a tightly contested first half, Maryland massacred Northwestern in the second half of this ACC/Big Ten No Challenge, outscoring the cold-shooting Wildcats 49-31 and sending fans at Welsh-Ryan Arena streaming to the exits after the lead reached 21 with more than eight minutes left.

"That was fun," said a content Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon after the game. "It was almost a perfect second half for us."

Northwestern often lives and dies by the 3-pointer, and on Tuesday night the Wildcats, who hit just 6-of-25 3-pointers in the game, found out just how ugly death can be when they are not hitting from long-range.

"We were taking too many shots early in possessions," said a subdued Northwestern head coach Bill Carmody. "They just weren't going down."

Then, there was the little problem of rebounding. Northwestern knew that Maryland, the second-best team in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-15.2) coming in, would get the better of them on the glass. But they didn't expect it to be as bad as 47-19.

"It was a horrible effort on the boards by the whole squad," said Dave Sobolewski. "You can't beat anyone when you get beat by 25 or 30 or whatever it was on the boards."

Despite the lopsided final score, Northwestern hung with the Terrapins in the first half. They got outrebounded 27-10 and hit just 3-of-16 3-pointers, but the Wildcats trailed just 28-26 at intermission thanks, in large part, to a plus-9 (11-2) turnover margin in the Wildcats' favor.

However, Maryland turned the ball over just four more times and got its fast break going in the second half. To make matters worse, it was the Terrapins, and not the Wildcats, that began heating up from beyond the arc.

Maryland reeled off a 13-1 run to open 47-34 lead with 14:37 left in the half. Northwestern went to its 1-3-1 defense in an effort to slow the tempo and maybe force some more turnovers.

That plan backfired quickly when sharpshooter Logan Aronhalt continued to find open spots in the corners. He hit all three of his 3-pointers in a span of less than three minutes to blow things open.

And when the Terrapins weren't hitting threes, they were getting layups. Maryland scored 44 points in the paint, 15 from beyond the arc and 14 from the free-throw line.

That means that they collected just four points on shots between the arc and the key.

Maryland was paced by Dez Wells, who scored 23 points, and center Alex Len, who contributed 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

Reggie Hearn paced the Wildcats with 19 points, while Drew Crawford had an uncharacteristically quiet night with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting.

While the media and fans built this game up as a major early season test for Northwestern, Sobolewski would have none of it after the game.

When asked if this was a statement game, he snapped back, "It wasn't. It was a November game vs. an ACC team...it was nothing more than a loss in November."

But it will no doubt be one they remember.



Cat scratches

  • Battle of the Alexes goes to Len: NU 7-footer Alex Olah, who was matched up against Maryland's 7-foot-1 Len, got off to a good start, hitting the first basket of the game for the Wildcats. But foul trouble and Len having his way inside prompted Carmody to go with the smaller but quicker Mike Turner for much of the game. Olah finished with three points, three rebounds and four assists in just 16 minutes. When asked about Olah's tough night, Carmody said, "Hey, this is what he signed up for. We know he's going to have those kind of days. He'll be OK."

  • Crawford feeling pressure? Crawford, Northwestern's leader, clearly had an off night. Carmody, for one, feels that his senior may be feeling the pressure of being "the man" night-in and night-out for the Wildcats. "There may be something to that…" said Carmody. "Right now, he's definitely pressing."


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