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Wisconsin fight back but cannot overcome first half woes in 68-63 loss to Maryland

A tough outcome considering their second half comeback.

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A few airballs, a missed, open dunk and overall poor shooting were obviously not recipes for success on the road in the first half for the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday.

And yet a gritty, sharper final 20 minutes almost allowed Greg Gard’s squad to pull out a win in College Park.

Once down by 10 points at halftime, Wisconsin fought back with a strong second half to make it a back and forth affair but ultimately fell to Maryland in a 68-63 loss.

A pair of Terrapin guards hurt the Badgers, as Anthony Cowan scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting and Kevin Huerter tallied 19 points with six rebounds for Maryland (16-9, 5-7 Big Ten).

Once again, redshirt junior forward Ethan Happ led Wisconsin (10-15, 3-9) with a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds. Four players scored in double figures in all, but all scoring came from the starting five Badgers with no help from the bench in an offensive capacity.

Wisconsin built up an 18-11 lead with 9:24 left in the first half despite some poor shooting, thanks in part to Maryland starting off the game even slower than UW.

Maryland stormed back, however, to outscore UW 22-5 to end the half. That included runs of 17-2 in the final six minutes, 40 seconds and 11-0 run in a four minute, 15 second stretch that gave the Terps a 33-23 advantage at the half.

As seen in previous games, UW went ice cold from the field, not scoring in the last four minutes, 39 seconds of the first half. In those first 20 minutes, Wisconsin only shot nine of 29 (31 percent), including only converting on four of 13 from three-point range.

Maryland, on the other hand, ended the half shooting 56 percent (14-of-25) from the field.

Wisconsin did not give up in the second half, however, shooting 53.6 percent (15 of 28) and making the game more than a competitive conference outing. Though the Terps dominated the paint in the first 20 minutes by a 24-8 margin, the Badgers fought back in outscoring their opponents in the category by 10 (20-10) in that final 20 minutes.

The Badgers pushed a 16-7 run with Happ and true freshman forward Nate Reuvers both contributing six points in that stretch. Reuvers’s layup with 13:06 shortened the Maryland lead to within 40-39 with 13:06 remaining.

The true freshman forward provided a solid outing offensively, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the second half.

Redshirt freshman Aleem Ford’s third three-pointer of the game tying the game at 42 at the 11:20 mark, and true freshman Brad Davison nailed a long jumper to allow Wisconsin to take a brief 44-42 lead with just under 10 minutes left.

That set up the teams battling the rest of the game in either tying or taking small leads.

Yet Wisconsin would not fade away.

After that particular Terp spurt, Wisconsin answered with a Reuvers jumper and Ford’s three-pointer to tie the game once again, this time at 60-60.

Ford built off of his offensive performance against Northwestern last week by scoring 12 points (all on three-point shots on four of five from deep) with five rebounds and two assists.

Maryland, however, pulled away in the end. Huerter connected on two clutch shots, both within a minute of each other, to make it 64-60 with 27 seconds remaining.

With time winding down, Davison’s three-pointer with 10.6 seconds remaining brought it back with a one-point game. The true freshman scored 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting overall.

After Maryland took a timeout with some solid Wisconsin defense on the inbounds, the ensuing inbounds play saw UW foul Cowan, who his two free throws to put lead back at three at 66-63 with nine seconds remaining.

Davison drove to the lane late with less than five seconds left, but his shot was blocked by guard Dion Wiley.

Cowan converted the final two free throws to put the game ultimately out of reach with a second remaining.