MADISON, WIS. — In the topsy-turvy world that the Big Ten has suddenly become, Maryland seemed poised to pull off the second straight upset in the league’s Friday night doubleheader.
Led by freshman guard Eric Ayala, the No. 21 Terps went up on No. 24 Wisconsin twice by nine points in the first half at Kohl Center, the last time with a little over three minutes left.
Even with big men Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith in foul trouble, the Terps still led with a little under five minutes remaining.
But shoddy free-throw shooting by Maryland and some timely 3-point shooting by Wisconsin doomed the Terps, who wound up losing, 69-61.
The defeat was the third in the past four games for Maryland (17-6, 8-4), which fell into fifth place in the Big Ten — one spot out of the double-bye in the tournament.
The victory was the fifth straight for Wisconsin (16-7, 8-3), which hasn’t lost since coming back from a 21-point deficit to the Terps in College Park 19 nights ago and taking the lead only to lose, 64-60.
Sophomore guard Brad Davison led the Badgers with 21 points Friday night, 14 in the second half. Senior forward Ethan Happ finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Ayala had 18 points for the Terps, who are 0-18 against ranked teams on the road in Turgeon’s eight years.
For the second time in three games, Maryland faltered down the stretch. While it wasn’t as bad as the 26-10 run by Illinois at Madison Square Garden, the Badgers outscored the Terps 15-6 in the last 4:47.
After returning home early Saturday morning, Maryland will go back on the road for its next game Wednesday to Nebraska.
Earlier in the evening, Iowa upset No. 5 Michigan, 74-59, in Iowa City.
Maryland came into Friday’s game leading the Big Ten in free-throw shooting, making nearly 78 percent as a team in 10 league games. The Terps were a dismal 3-for-8 from the line and missed a few key free throws down the stretch that all but killed their chances.