By SportsDirect Inc.
Northwestern may be the sentimental favorite for many in the Big Ten tournament as it inches closer to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, but it almost certainly will not gain any benefit from that in its next game. Third-seeded Maryland makes the 15-minute drive from its College Park campus to the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. to meet the sixth-seeded Wildcats in the quarterfinals of the conference event on Friday.
The Wildcats made quick work of Rutgers in second-round action Thursday, going on a 31-0 run in the first half en route to an 83-61 victory as they advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014. The win further increased the likelihood that Northwestern, which already entered this tournament with a school-record 21 victories, will end the dubious distinction of being one of only five schools – and the lone one from a major conference – never to make the Big Dance. In addition to improving their 8-19 all-time record in the Big Ten tournament, the Wildcats will be looking to avenge a 74-64 setback to the Terrapins on Feb. 15 – one of the losses that contributed to their 3-6 finish to the regular season. Maryland’s Melo Trimble scored a career-high 32 points in that contest and helped the Terrapins wrap up conference play on a high note Saturday as he hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in a 63-60 win over Michigan State.
TV: 8:55 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (22-10): The Wildcats played without Scottie Lindsey (14 points) in the first meeting – the last of four games he missed due to mononucleosis – and the team’s second-leading scorer had averaged only 7.6 points in the five contests after his return before contributing 16 on Thursday. Bryant McIntosh (team-high 14.5 points) was held to nine points on 3-of-13 shooting in the Feb. 15 contest – the only time in 11 contests since Jan. 29 in which he failed to score at least 13. Freshman guard Isiah Brown (6.7 points) has struggled to find his range or much playing time since scoring a career-high 19 points in the first meeting, totaling 20 in 54 minutes over five games on 6-of-21 shooting.
ABOUT MARYLAND (24-7): Trimble (team-high 16.9 points), who has reached double figures in 20 straight games, became the first Terrapin since Greivis Vasquez to earn All-Conference recognition three times when he was one of two unanimous picks on the coaches’ All-Big Ten Team. Second-leading scorer Justin Jackson (10.7 points, team-high 6.2 rebounds) is 22-of-66 over his eight contests after shooting at least 50 percent in each of his previous four, but the 6-7 Canadian freshman reached double figures for only the third time in that stretch with 15 points on Saturday. Anthony Cowan (10.4 points) ranks eighth all-time among Maryland freshmen in single-season assists (116) and is 26-of-28 from the foul line over his last eight games.
1. The winner will face No. 10 seed Indiana or second-seeded Wisconsin in the semifinals on Saturday.
2. Maryland is 10-3 in games decided by six or fewer points in 2016-17 and 29-8 in such contests over the last three seasons.
3. Northwestern’s 31-0 burst on Thursday was eight points shy of tying the longest scoring run by a team against another Division I opponent.
PREDICTION: Maryland 73, Northwestern 68