- The Washington Times
Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Entering his sophomore season, some wondered whether Maryland forward Julian Reese could hold his own among the bigs of the Big Ten. 

Most wouldn’t consider a 6 feet-9, 230-pound frame to be lacking in size, but one of this conference’s signatures is the stature and size of those who make their home underneath the basket. Reese enters most of those matchups as the “undersized” player, including Wednesday night against Wisconsin 7-footer Steven Crowl.

Terrapins coach Kevin Willard has never worried about those matchups, singing Reese’s praises since early in the season. Instead, maybe it’s the rest of Maryland’s Big Ten schedule that should be the ones worrying.

After scoring 19 as the Terps nearly knocked off No. 1 Purdue on Sunday, Reese responded with another strong effort inside Wednesday night, scoring 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting while teammate Jahmir Young led all scorers with 22 as Maryland beat Wisconsin 73-55.

“I think you need to put Juju in the conversation of being one of the best five-men in this league right now, considering what he did over the last three games against three of the best big guys in the country,” Willard said. 

Young also pulled down eight rebounds to go with his fourth 20-point performance in Maryland’s last five games. The Terrapins (13-7, 4-5 Big Ten) improved to 10-1 at home, and remained undefeated at Xfinity Center in conference play. It’s their first win over the Badgers (12-7, 4-5) in their last four tries.

“I think the offense — I really haven’t changed anything. I just think everyone’s getting a little more comfortable with everything that the Big Ten … that the league brings out night in and night out,” Willard said.

“It’s more or less these guys figured out that, you know, every once awhile you just gotta grind it out and can’t throw the ball to the post.”

A shooting gallery broke out to start the game: The Terrapins opened 6-of-9 from the floor, with Wisconsin keeping pace at 6-of-7 as the teams raced to a 14-14 tie.

The hot hands cooled off after the initial six-minute salvo, right about the time Willard began his bench rotations. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard did the same, resulting in four-minute-plus scoring droughts for each side.

A Chucky Hepburn three resumed the Badgers’ scoring with a 20-18 lead at 7:59 of the first half. Maryland’s stretch without a bucket from the floor, though, went more than seven minutes.

The Terrapins would get clicking again thanks to Reese, who, after holding his own against Purdue’s dominant big man Zach Edey on Sunday, responded with another strong performance in the paint against Crowl. He bookended the scoring of a 12-0 Maryland run to lead the Terrapins into halftime up 32-28.

“I was excited - we haven’t been up at halftime very much in Big Ten play,” Willard said. “It was all positive in the locker room … I felt like we were in really good shape and we just came out and were aggressive.”

The positivity stuck with Reese, as he poured in three-straight baskets early in the second half. It was part of another hot opening streak, with the Terrapins shooting 8-for-8 and stretching their lead to 13, 49-36. 

“I think he’s more comfortable in his role,” Gard said of Reese, “and the improvement I’ve seen in [him] is noticeable from game one to tonight.”

Reese would sit most of the second half after picking up his third and fourth fouls, which is when Young and his teammates locked down and helped finish the victory.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive, see the open lane and take it,” Young said of his play as of late. “If nobody steps up, I just take off.”

“I think the biggest thing that I’ve noticed is not only has he gotten used to the league, I think he’s gotten in good enough shape with the way we’re playing that his second wind is coming really quick,” Willard said of Young. “I don’t think he needs to come out at times. So I think he’s got in great shape.”

Gard echoed that sentiment, noting the difference in Maryland’s physicality from their first meeting this season, a 64-59 Badgers win.

“They go as Young goes, and when you have a point guard as aggressive [as that] … he makes a lot of things happen”

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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