Northwestern poses a different challenge for Maryland in Big Ten quarterfinal

Northwestern raised eyebrows with the way it beat Rutgers on Thursday. But which Widlcats will the Terps see?

Third-seeded Maryland will have an interesting matchup in its Big Ten tournament quarterfinal Friday night at Verizon Center.

The No. 25 Terps will be facing an opponent that was missing its leading scorer when they played during the regular season.

Since Maryland played Northwestern just once, and junior guard Scottie Lindsey was out with mononucleosis, the team the Terps will meet is markedly different from the one they beat easily in Evanston, Ill., last month.

Based on what the Wildcats did in Thursday’s second-round game against Rutgers, it’s hard to judge exactly who the Terps will see in Washington.

Will it be the team that struggled down the stretch, losing three of the its last five regular season games even after Lindsey returned?

Will it be the team that used a ridiculous 31-0 run in the first half to turn an early deficit into a 37-9 lead over the Scarlet Knights?

Or will it be the team that coasted the rest of the way in beating the Scarlet Knights, 83-61, with Lindsey having his best game (16 points) since coming back?

Then again, Northwestern might be asking the same question of Maryland.

Will it be the team that led by 10 points at halftime on Feb. 15 at Welsh-Ryan Arena, doubled its lead in the second half and cruised to a 74-64 victory behind a career-high 32 points by Melo Trimble?

Or will it be the team that struggled, losing five of seven games including three straight by double-digits? That is, before reviving itself and finishing the regular season with a 20-point win at Rutgers and then beating Michigan State on Saturday on Trimble’s 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left.

The matchup will likely come down to whether the Wildcats can keep Trimble under control a lot better than they did last month, and whether Northwestern point guard Bryant McIntosh can shoot the ball better than he did (3-for-13 overall, 0-for-5 on 3s) after getting in early foul trouble against Maryland in the regular season.

"It's a great opportunity," McIntosh said Thursday. "First off, you're basically playing them in their home gym. To get another shot at them, I feel like we played tired the last time we played them at home. It's just a great opportunity when you get to play them for a chance to go to the Final Four [of] the Big Ten tournament. I think all of us are excited for it." 

History is on Maryland’s side. The Terps have won both of their quarterfinals in their first two years in the Big Ten, beating Indiana, 75-69, two years ago in Chicago and Nebraska, 97-86, last season in Indianapolis.  

One more thing: Northwestern has yet to beat Maryland since the Terps joined the Big Ten and the Wildcats have never advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament since it began in 1998, despite being played more often than not in Chicago.

"I just respect their program so much," said Northwestern coach Chris Collins, who played for and coached under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. "We had a couple of good games against them the last couple of years. At our place, they've kind of kicked our butts. We've got to get rested, study up on those guys, watch the tape. We know there's going to be a lot of red in here."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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