- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2022

Eric Ayala scored a career high 26 points and 11 rebounds to record his first career double-double, Fatts Russell scored a season-high 23 points, and Maryland avoided a late collapse to win their first Big Ten game in double overtime Wednesday night at Northwestern, 94-87.

“I’m very proud of the effort and the resiliency of the guys on our team,” said Maryland interim head coach Danny Manning. “We stayed the course, we thought ‘next play,’ and we found a way to get a road win — a win in the Big Ten.”

Russell only scored 2 points in the first half, but delivered late for Maryland (9-7, 1-4 Big Ten) when they needed it the most, scoring 13 in the overtime periods while playing most of the game’s late stages with four fouls.

“All of our other games were kind of like this, but we just fell short,” Russell said. “And today, I felt that we fought all the way to the end.” 

Ayala picked up where he left off after a strong second half in Sunday’s loss to Wisconsin, adding 14 in the back half against the Wildcats.

“Our two guards really did a good job of facilitating, rebounding the basketball, scoring the basketball,” Manning said. “They’re older. They’re veteran guards. And we’re very thankful to have them in situations like this on the road.”

Northwestern forward Pete Nance led all scorers with a career-high 28 points and 14 rebounds, and fellow forward Robbie Beran added 19 for the Wildcats (8-6, 1-4), who have lost four straight.

Guard Hakim Hart and forward Donta Scott added 18 and 17 points, respectively, for Maryland, who played their first double overtime game since 2014. The Terps had the game in hand before the extra periods, but a disaster of Hart and Scott’s making took away a win in regulation.

With a 6-point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining, Scott would turn the ball over, and Nance immediately hit a three to cut the deficit in half. Hart couldn’t handle the ensuing inbound cleanly, and the ball went out off his foot and to the Wildcats. 

Northwestern called for a review, which showed Scott extending his elbow into the face of Beran during the play. It was ruled a flagrant foul, and Beran was given and would make two foul shots. 

“We’ve got to do a much better job of maintaining our poise and not being caught in situations like that,” Manning said.

“Those last couple of seconds was very unique,” an admittedly tired Ayala said with a smile. “I don’t even want to talk about it. It was crazy, those last three seconds.”

Keeping possession, Nance drove to the lane, was fouled by Scott, and made one of two foul shots to send the game to overtime. With his second foul in less than ten seconds, Scott fouled out of the game. 

“Good, bad, or indifferent, whatever happens, we move on to the next play,” Manning said, describing the mentality he told his team to have before the game. 

“I thought our guys had a terrific mindset of understanding that throughout the whole ballgame.”

Maryland again got off to a slow start, with Hart being their most consistent scorer early, tallying seven of the Terps’ first 11 points. Both teams struggled to find much of anything for the first 10 minutes, with turnovers in the paint along with missed layups and dunks dominating the action.

Northwestern led by as much as six in the opening session, but the Terps drew closer at the six-minute mark of the first half thanks to — who else — Ayala.

First, Ayala was knocked down and fouled as he made a fall-away three from the far corner. He’d convert the four-point play, then convert an and-one on the Terps’ next possession to give Maryland their first lead at 21-19.

The teams would trade the lead back and forth four more times to close out the half at an even 30-all. The levelness continued down the scoresheet: Both the Terrapins and Wildcats shot 36 percent from the field, scored 14 points in the paint, pulled down 15 defensive rebounds, and committed four turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

That ebb-and-flow continued throughout the remainder of the game, which was tied 15 different times and featured 21 lead changes.

A short Maryland bench, which entered the game missing guard Marcus Dockery due to a family death, was even tighter most of the second half and overtime due to foul trouble.

In addition to Russell’s four fouls, forward Julian Reese picked up his third and fourth fouls early in the half, forcing Manning to sit him for different spells. Those fouls came during a 6-0 Wildcats run, putting Northwestern back on top, 48-46. Like Scott, Reese would foul out late in the second half.

“[Russell] was getting those fouls, and I’m just like, ‘Bro, we need you out here,’” Ayala said. “He just plays so hard and competes.”

Ayala scored 9 of the Terps’ next 11 points, including 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give Maryland the lead again, 57-54.

He’d sustain that pace with another five points, and Maryland would use a couple of turnovers to put together a 10-2 run into the final minute before giving up the lead in the final seconds of regulation.

“We were kind of there before in other games. … I just was trying to tell the team, ‘This is where we gotta make that next step at’”

Russell then took over in the extra time, and three-straight offensive rebounds late in the second overtime helped Maryland run the clock and end their three-game slide.

“I definitely think we took the next step today, and are headed in the right direction,” Russell said. “Hopefully, we can find our niche, learn from this and keep going.”

NOTE: Maryland will be without assistant coach Bruce Shingler for the next eight games. Shingler, a Bladensburg native, has been suspended 30 days for what the Maryland athletic department in a statement termed “a violation of his employment agreement.”

He was formerly an assistant coach at South Carolina for four seasons under Frank Martin before coming to College Park this season. Manning has not elevated someone to assume the role of an assistant on his bench, saying, “All this happened pretty quickly. We’re just trying to keep our head above water and move forward.” 

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

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