Before Donta Scott had thrown the ball through the rim with under a minute to play Monday, Darryl Morsell was already leaping in celebration, swinging his arms, mouth wide in a yell.
Scott had up-faked his defender on the wing, the drove toward the lane. He had a step on his man.
“When he caught that one step, I’m like, ‘That’s a dunk.’ Immediately in my head, I said, ‘That’s a dunk,’” Morsell said postgame. “So I’m screaming, ‘Dunk it, dunk it, dunk it.’”
So Scott dunked it.
With that rise and slam through three defenders, Scott sent Morsell and his teammates into raptures, applying a not-so-subtle finishing touch on Maryland’s 70-64 victory over No. 6 Wisconsin.
The Terrapins, who looked lost offensively for most of their Christmas Day game against Purdue, shot 64 percent from the field in the second half Monday, picking up their first Big Ten win of the season. In a conference full of juggernauts, a win such as this could be a springboard after an uneven start to the campaign.
“We have to stick together; that’s who we are,” coach Mark Turgeon said. “We’re in the best league in the country, and every night’s going to be a battle. So we’ve got to have energy on game night, and we great energy tonight.”
Turgeon led that energetic showing. At one point in a huddle late in the second half, Turgeon started a chant, pumping his team up. Then he broke his drawing board — “a nice little slap to the ground got it,” Eric Ayala said.
Maryland had used an eight-point run earlier in the second half to narrow the score line, and then hung around in a one-possession game for much of the next five minutes. The separation came later on, with Ayala adding a transition layup — part of his 17 second-half points — after Jairus Hamilton knocked down a trey.
The Terrapins switched to a 3-2 zone before the initial run, a move that knocked the Badgers off balance.
“It limited their post touches,” Ayala said. “Early on, they were getting a lot of touches on the post. … Our zone kind of pushed them out to the perimeter. I think it slowed them down a lot.”
Still, forward Nate Reuvers scored eight straight points for his squad midway through the second half, and guard D’Mitrik Trice scored 15 second-half points. But a combination of Scott, Hamilton and Morsell helped to slow down Reuvers — battling down low despite a significant size advantage for the Wisconsin senior.
Maryland (6-3, 1-2 Big Ten) employed its smaller lineup frequently Monday, which charges the 6-foot-7 Scott to guard the center. He and Morsell were up for the challenge, though. And their physicality translates to the rest of the team.
“It’s kind of contagious, the energy, the hard work,” guard Aaron Wiggins said, who finished with 15 points. “The effort that everyone’s putting in I think just kind of boosts our level of energy, because we know those two are working as hard as they can, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to contain our matchups.”
Both squads were cold from the field in the first half, combining to shoot 37 percent. From the 2:03 mark of the first half to the 16:43 mark of the second half, Maryland missed 11 straight shots. Wisconsin (8-2, 2-1) missed six straight in a similar time frame.
But the lids came off the baskets down the stretch, and with Ayala pouring it on, the game began to tip in the Terrapins’ favor. Then Scott received the ball on the wing, faked out his defender and rose up for that thunderous two-hand jam, the one that gave his team a five-point edge and all but sealed Monday’s upset.
With Scott’s 10 second-half points — including that dunk — the sophomore is continuing his breakout campaign. And the pieces around him played their best on Monday, too, completing the puzzle to secure Maryland’s first win over a top-10 team since 2016.
“I feel like every game we play, if we play with that amount of composure, and that amount of focus and passion,” Wiggins said, “I think we can beat any team in the conference.”
• Andy Kostka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.