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COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A matchup that was so enticing six months ago that the Big Ten Conference and CBS placed it in a prime television slot arrived Sunday afternoon as something much less attractive than that.

The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team entered the XFINITY Center having lost seven of its past eight games, including four in a row. Its opponent, Maryland, had lost three consecutive games and five of its past six.

Something had to give and, in the end, it was the struggling Badgers whose misery was extended.

Sophomore point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 23 points and sophomore wing Kevin Huerter added 19 to help the Terrapins snap their skid with a 68-63 win over UW, which fell to 1-10 away from home this season.

“It’s hard to win,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said afterward, “when you haven’t been winning.”

Turgeon would get no argument from UW coach Greg Gard, whose team was in position to win for the first time since Jan. 19 but was outscored 8-3 over the final 86 seconds.

The Badgers fought valiantly to erase a 10-point halftime deficit. But — and this has been a common theme this season — they couldn’t close the deal.

Junior center Ethan Happ scored 18 points for the Badgers (10-15, 3-9 Big Ten), including 13 in the second half. Freshman forward Nate Reuvers added a career-high 13 points, while freshman guard Brad Davison and redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford each had 12.

Afterward, Happ was asked if he was concerned that the Badgers would collapse under the weight of a losing streak that has now reached five games.

“That’s on me and Brad and the coaching staff just to come at it every day in practice,” Happ said. “Coach says all the time, he’s not going to concede to the season as if it’s a lost season. We have an off day (Monday), but the next day we’re going to come into practice with the attitude that we’re going to get the next one.”

Happ didn’t score over the final 6:47 and didn’t attempt a shot after missing a hook in the paint with 4:46 left. Maryland (16-9, 5-7), meanwhile, relied heavily on its two best players down the stretch.

Huerter finished in traffic on back-to-back possessions after UW had tied the game at 60, giving the Terrapins a four-point lead with 26.1 seconds remaining, while Cowan made four free throws in the final 10 seconds to seal the win.

UW had a chance to send the game to overtime between those two trips to the line for Cowan, but a bizarre possession ended with the Badgers not even attempting a 3-point shot.

After Davison connected from beyond the arc to cut Maryland’s lead to 64-63 with 10.6 seconds left, Gard called his last timeout to set up the final sequence. If the Badgers couldn’t get a steal or force a jump ball, he instructed them to quickly foul.

They did, and Cowan made two free throws with 9.8 seconds left to give the Terrapins a three-point cushion.

Happ set a screen for Davison, who drove to his right all the way to the rim. He missed and Cowan grabbed the loose ball before being fouled.

“That was not the play,” Gard said.

It appeared the first option was Ford, who came off a screen by junior forward Khalil Iverson on the baseline and curled around to a spot on the left wing. By that time, Davison already had committed to driving.

Davison said he was hoping to find a teammate on the wing, but there were no kickout options available to him. Ford was on the other side of the play, while Reuvers hadn’t made his way into a position to score after taking the ball out of bounds on the opposite baseline.

“That was miscommunication on our part,” Davison said. “I take the responsibility for that, that’s one of my jobs out there. Some of that, we just weren’t on the same page. By the time I got into the lane, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to do anything.”

Added Happ: “It’s a tough lesson to learn. But down three, you can’t go to the hoop there hoping for an and-1. But he’s young and you’ve got to learn that lesson next time.”

As poorly executed as UW’s final offensive possession was, it wasn’t the reason the Badgers lost the game.

The bigger factor was another awful stretch that wiped out an otherwise solid performance from the Badgers, a common refrain to end a week in which they lost three games in the span of seven days.

UW was outscored 30-8 over the final 9:46 against Nebraska last Monday and 18-1 over the opening 5:31 against Northwestern three days later. This time, it was a 17-2 surge by Maryland over the final 6:40 of the first half that allowed the Terrapins to build a 10-point halftime lead.

The Badgers managed only one basket — a long jumper by Davison late in the shot clock — over their final 11 possessions of the first half.

“We felt like we were the better team for a majority of the game,” said Happ, who helped the Badgers outscore the Terrapins 21-9 over the opening 10:19 of the second half to take the lead. “It’s just when we slip, we slip pretty far down.”

As Turgeon said and UW is finding out, busting out of a losing streak is no easy task. And it’s fair to wonder how much the Badgers, now 2-6 in games decided by five or fewer points this season, even believe they can win when they enter the stretch run of tight games.

“There are some teams that every close game they’re in, you just expect them to lose it,” Happ said. “That’s not us. Once we tied it back up, we thought we were going to take the thing. That just didn’t happen.”


min fg-a ft-a rb pf a to pts

Ford 38 4-5 0-0 5 3 2 2 12

Happ 29 7-15 4-6 9 4 3 0 18

Reuvers 25 5-9 2-3 3 1 1 1 13

Iverson 36 3-7 2-2 2 2 2 2 8

Davison 34 5-14 0-0 1 4 2 1 12

Pritzl 6 0-2 0-0 1 0 0 1 0

Moesch 5 0-0 0-0 2 2 1 0 0

Thomas 8 0-2 0-0 1 0 0 0 0

Schlundt 8 0-2 0-0 1 1 1 0 0

Illikainen 11 0-1 0-0 1 1 0 1 0

Totals 24-57 8-11 29 18 12 9 63


min fg-a ft-a rb pf a to pts

Fernando 27 2-6 2-2 9 3 1 3 6

Cowan 39 8-14 6-6 2 3 3 1 23

Huerter 37 6-12 6-6 6 3 4 1 19

Wiley 21 2-7 0-0 1 1 0 0 4

Morsell 29 1-4 3-4 1 3 1 4 5

Obi 13 1-1 1-1 6 0 0 0 3

Nickens 24 2-2 0-0 0 1 1 0 6

Tomaic 10 1-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 2

Totals 23-47 18-19 28 14 10 9 68

Team totals include rebounds and turnovers

Wisconsin 23 40 — 63 Maryland 33 35 — 68

3-pointers W 7-21 (Ford 4-5, Davison 2-7, Reuvers 1-4, Iverson 0-1, Pritzl 0-1, Schlundt 0-1, Happ 0-2), M 4-14 (Nickens 2-2, Cowan 1-5, Huerter 1-5, Wiley 0-2). Steals — W 3 (Iverson 2, Davison 1), M 2 (Cowan, Morsell 1). Blocks — W 3 (Happ 2, Iverson 1), M 6 (Morsell 2, Tomaic 2, Fernando 1, Wiley 1). Field goal percentage — W .421, M .489. Free throw percentage — W .727, M .947. Att. — 15,810.


Jim Polzin covers Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball for the Wisconsin State Journal.