EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — If this is what life in the Big Ten will be like for Maryland, the Terrapins can’t wait to get there.
Dez Wells set a career high with 23 points as Maryland blew out Northwestern in the second half en route to a 77-57 win on Tuesday night.
A week after Maryland announced it would leave the ACC and join the Big Ten in 2014, the Terrapins and Wildcats faced off in a preview of future conference foes and one of 12 contests in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Maryland (5-1) led 28-26 at halftime but broke the game open in the second half, scoring on its first 10 possessions. The run stretched the lead to 47-34.
“It was almost a perfect second half for us,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “They were a confident team, 6-0, coming off a tournament win. We knew it was going to be tough. We didn’t think it’d be like this.”
Wells finished the spurt by hitting a 3-pointer and going coast-to-coast for a layup after a Northwestern turnover.
Wells hurt the Wildcats (6-1) from all spots on the floor, slashing to the basket and stepping back to hit jumpers. He was 9 for 11 from the field with three assists.
“I wanted to make them play honest defense on me — shooting the 3, taking it to the basket or shooting the pull-up,” said Wells, who scored just seven points against Georgia Southern on Saturday. “I just really wanted to exercise my whole game tonight.”
Added Turgeon: “I don’t know if he can give us 9 for 11 every night. But he’ll continue to compete like that.”
Reggie Hearn had 19 points and Dave Sobolewski 14 for Northwestern, which was denied a fifth straight ACC/Big Ten Challenge victory.
The Terrapins dominated inside, outrebounding Northwestern 47-19.
In a battle of 7-foot centers from eastern Europe, Ukrainian Alex Len got the better of Romanian Alex Olah. Maryland’s Len had a double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds), while Olah was held to three points and three rebounds.
“We’re about inside-out,” Turgeon said. “That’s the way our team’s built. We did that in the second half.”
Maryland led by just two at halftime, despite holding a 27-10 rebounding advantage and Northwestern shooting just 3 for 16 from 3-point range in the first half. Maryland was much more careful with the ball after halftime, committing just four turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
The Wildcats tied the game at 28-all on a basket by Drew Crawford on their first possession of the second half, but the Terrapins’ lead soon swelled to 21 points.
“I think it goes back to rebounding, and it doesn’t even all fall on our (big guys),” Sobolewski said. “It falls on our guards just as much and the guards have to stick their nose in there and see if they can pull out some long rebounds or rebounds that hit the floor.
“It was just a horrible effort on the boards by the whole squad.”
Drew Crawford had 10 points for Northwestern, which was coming off two wins in the South Padre Island Invitational Tournament.
In its first road game of the season, Maryland won for the seventh time in eight tries in the yearly challenge between the two conferences. The Terrapins do not play another true road game until Jan. 13, against Miami in conference play.
Tuesday night marked just the second meeting between the schools. Northwestern defeated Maryland 66-62 in 1958.
As for the impending conference move, Turgeon said it was still too far off to begin thinking about.
“I have no idea what my team will look two years from now,” he said. “My standard answer has been we have two years left in the great ACC. We’re going to do everything we can to do the best we can in this league.”
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)