EVANSTON, Ill. — As Mark Turgeon walked briskly into Welsh-Ryan Arena wearing a business suit, a purple-clad Northwestern staff member intercepted the Maryland basketball coach, smiled and said: “Welcome to the conference.”
Maryland isn’t scheduled to enter the Big Ten until 2014. But Turgeon can only hope that Tuesday night’s game was a preview of things to come in Big Ten land.
Wildcats in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Wells seemed inspired by the treatment he received from the Northwestern fans. Some spectators behind one of the baskets chanted “No means no,” a reference to an old sexual assault allegation that a prosecutor said was unproven.
The more fans goaded him, the more energized Wells seemed to become. He clapped his hands and smiled at the fans. His previous career high was 19 points, reached twice as a freshman at Xavier last season.
“Imagine how it’s going to be at Duke and Carolina,” Wells said of the heckling. “This is probably light compared to Duke and Carolina. You have to embrace the hate that you get on the road. Home games are really, really good wins, but there’s nothing like coming out and getting a road win.”
Turgeon said Wells was embarrassed by his previous game against Georgia Southern, when he scored seven points and had five turnovers.
“You could just see on Sunday when we practiced he was just a totally different kid,” Turgeon said. “Just more determined, aggressive. He was embarrassed the way he played Saturday.”
Alex Len scored 13 points despite getting into foul trouble. He picked up his third foul with about 12 minutes to play and went to the bench.
It was the fifth straight victory for the Terps (5-1), whose only loss was to Kentucky in the season opener.
The Wildcats (6-1) lost for the first time.
Maryland led 28-26 at the half. The Wildcats and their Princeton offense entered the game surrendering fewer points than any Big Ten team. They hadn’t given up as many as 70 points until Tuesday night.
A 3-pointer by Wells pushed Maryland’s lead to 45-34. He followed with a drive to extend the margin to 13 points.
The lead became 61-43 on consecutive 3-pointers by Logan Aronhalt. Northwestern, which was led by Reggie Hearn with 19 points, did not threaten after that.
“It was almost a perfect second half for us,” said Turgeon, whose team shot 66.7 percent after the break.
Sixty-year-old Welsh-Ryan Arena — an old warhorse of a gym that seats 8,117 — is not always the most formidable venue. The Wildcats lost five home games here last season.
But winning any road game proved a challenge for Maryland last season. The Terps were 1-8 in away games, and Turgeon is hoping his team’s improved defense and rebounding will enable it to have more success this season away from home.
The Terps entered the game outrebounding opponents by 15.2 per game. They had a 47-19 advantage on Tuesday night.
Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said the Terps benefited on the boards because his team missed so many shots. The Wildcats missed 19 of 25 3-pointers.
“I just thought we were taking too many 3-pointers too soon," Carmody said. "I just thought we were a little quick on the trigger."