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Maryland men tap into a winning formula and run away from Wisconsin

Terrapins 73, Badgers 55

Maryland's Jahmir Young drives to the basket against Wisconsin's Chucky Hepburn during the second half of Wednesday's 73-55 win at Xfinity Center. Young scored a game-high 22 points. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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Jahmir Young arrived at Maryland with three years of college experience, dozens of starts and more than 1,000 career points. But the transfer from Charlotte hadn’t played in the Big Ten, hadn’t been tested by the physicality and talent of the conference. Terrapins Coach Kevin Willard regularly noted how the point guard needed time to adjust and become familiar with the new league.

That transitional period is over, and Young’s performances continue to prove he belongs. He powered the Terrapins to a 73-55 dismantling of Wisconsin on Wednesday night at Xfinity Center, scoring 22 points and collecting eight rebounds while directing an efficient and much improved offense as Maryland improved to 13-7 overall and 4-5 in the Big Ten.

“When you have a point guard that good and that aggressive, he makes a lot of things happen … and was able to break us down and get [to] the paint,” Wisconsin Coach Greg Gard said. “If it wasn’t him, he was finding people. He had us playing from behind, in terms of the pace of the game, from the beginning.”

Last month the Badgers (12-7, 4-5) ended Maryland’s undefeated start by toppling the Terps in Madison. During the rematch in College Park, the teams played a tight first half before Maryland took over in the second, pulling away to begin a three-game homestand with a dominant performance.

Maryland shot 56 percent from the field, the team’s second-best mark of the season. Young continues to be the Terps’ most productive scorer; he has at least 20 points in four of his past five games. But against Wisconsin, a well-rounded effort helped seal the win. Four starters finished in double figures, an encouraging sign as the Terps try to climb the Big Ten standings after a difficult start.

“It makes us very hard to guard,” said senior guard Hakim Hart, who scored 13 points. “I feel like teams don’t have an answer for us when we’re all clicking.”

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The Terrapins endured a scoring drought of more than six minutes in the first half, and they straggled into intermission leading 32-28. They seized control to start the second half and led by 13 within five minutes. Maryland hit its first eight shots of the second half and scored 17 points before the Badgers called a timeout with 15:06 remaining.

“I felt like we were in really good shape [at halftime],” Willard said, “and we just came out and were aggressive.”

The Terps cruised from there, creating distance behind the resurgent play of Hart and Donta Scott, senior starters from Philadelphia who recently struggled offensively. Hart, a pesky defender and solid passer, tallied a career-high eight assists. Willard identified Jordan Davis’s matchup against Hart as one to exploit, and “we just rode that the second half,” Willard said.

Scott had 14 points and 11 rebounds. He and Hart delivered performances that epitomized Maryland’s winning formula — taking fewer three-pointers and focusing on driving into the paint.

Here’s what else to know about Maryland’s win:

In the paint

The Terps have been one of the nation’s worst three-point shooting teams, entering Wednesday having made 30.1 percent from beyond the arc (placing them 323rd out of 352 Division I teams). Maryland had one of its best showings from three-point range against the Badgers, making 6 of 14 attempts (42.9 percent). But this game still highlighted the Terps’ increasing focus on scoring in the paint.

“It’s more or less these guys figuring out that, every once in a while, you’ve just got to grind it out and throw the ball into the post,” Willard said.

Fueled in part by Julian Reese’s progress and the guards having success attacking the rim, the Terps finished with a 38-22 scoring edge in the paint and a 32-22 rebounding advantage.

Reese’s test

For the third straight game, Reese, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, faced an opposing center with a significant height advantage. ­Reese has continued to show progress in each matchup — first by helping contain 7-1 Hunter Dickinson of Michigan and then battling Purdue’s Zach Edey, a 7-4 national player of the year candidate.

Wisconsin’s Steven Crowl, a 7-foot junior, was Reese’s challenge Wednesday, and the sophomore had a productive night but was limited by foul trouble. Reese committed his fourth foul with 9:12 remaining and logged only 23 minutes. Reese was still efficient, scoring 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting, and Maryland held Crowl to 11 points.

Home stretch

The Terps have excelled at home in conference play, winning all four of their Big Ten games at Xfinity Center. Maryland’s home résumé includes victories over Illinois (No. 16 at the time) and Ohio State (No. 24). With classes at Maryland starting Wednesday, students packed the stands, and the Terps generated another strong outing.

“We scored early,” Willard said. “We were able to get into the press. We were able to do what we want to do. On the road, we just haven’t been able to do that.”

The Terps have two more home games — Nebraska on Saturday and Indiana on Tuesday — before they return to the road. Maryland has lost all five of its Big Ten games away from home.

Quick turnaround

The Badgers played at Maryland just two days after they suffered a 66-63 loss at Northwestern. Usually, the Big Ten schedules games at least three days apart, but the Wildcats had to postpone their game against Wisconsin, initially scheduled for Saturday, because of coronavirus issues in their program.

That forced the Badgers into a grueling three-day stretch with two road contests — and it showed in the second half in College Park.