COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Wisconsin had blown most of an 18-point halftime lead against Maryland when Micah Potter delivered the counterpunch that flattened the potential comeback.
Soon after the Terrapins opened the second half with a 20-5 run to cut it to 43-40, Potter converted his third three-point play of the game and added a 3-pointer for a 52-42 advantage.
That was enough to send the 14th-ranked Badgers to a 61-55 victory Wednesday night.
Potter finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds, including the key baskets that blunted Maryland’s bid to erase a 38-20 halftime deficit.
“We knew they were going to throw a punch,” Potter said. “The big thing you have to do is get that energy back. You’ve got to be able to take that punch and give it back, and we were able to do that.”
D’Mitrik Trice added 13 to help the Badgers (13-4, 7-3 Big Ten) avenge a surprise loss to the Terrapins (9-8, 3-7) last month and bounce back from a home defeat to Ohio State over the weekend.
Under normal circumstances, Maryland’s comeback would have fueled a sellout crowd at the arena and perhaps spur the Terrapins to complete the task. But on this occasion, there wasn’t a fan in sight because of COVID-19 restrictions in the state.
“Playing in here tonight this is as odd an event as I’ve ever been in,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “You expect the joint to be jumping and it was dead silent. It was like playing in a pickup game.”
After shooting 25% to fall into a huge hole at the break, the Terrapins opened the second half with an 8-0 run, then rattled off nine straight points to get within 3 with 11:45 to go. Minutes later, however, Potter took over.
Aaron Wiggins scored 19 points and Donta Scott added 13 for Maryland, which was seeking its fourth victory over a ranked team – the second in a row after winning at Minnesota on Saturday.
“We’ve got to start the game the way we started the second half,” Scott said. “It’s frustrating.”
Potter went 8 for 12 from the field, 4 for 6 beyond the arc and sank all three of his foul shots. Limited to four points in the first meeting between the teams on Dec. 28, the 6-foot-10 center fell one point short of matching his career high in the rematch.
Asked to explain his improved output, Potter said, “It’s all mindset. I knew going into this game I had to be way more aggressive than the last game. It’s one of those things when you learn from your mistakes.”
Wisconsin finished with a 38-31 rebounding advantage and limited the Terrapins to 36 percent shooting. The Badgers came in allowing only 62.2 points per game in conference play and lowered that figure with aggressive defense that was adept at keeping Maryland out of the paint.
“I thought we were really good in the first half,” Gard said. “They got some momentum and confidence in the second half. Overall, though, a pretty good job defensively.”
Potter scored 14 points and Wisconsin held the Terps to 7-for-28 shooting – 2 for 14 beyond the arc – in the first half.
Maryland missed 11 of its first 13 shots, all seven from 3-point range, and fell behind 14-4 just before the midpoint of the first half.
It was 24-14 before Potter drilled a 3-pointer and added a three-point play for a 14-point cushion. Two minutes later, Potter was fouled on a tip-in and made the free throw to make it 33-18.
This victory on the road in which they never trailed certainly won’t hurt the Badgers’ bid to get back into the Top 10.
Wisconsin: The Badgers are tough to beat when they’re playing strong defense and snagging the rebounds of their opponent’s misfires. Throw in the fact that they are stingy with their turnovers (they had 12 but were averaging 8.4), and it’s no wonder this team appears on its way to the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland: With no big man to speak of, the Terps have to rely heavily on the outside shot for offense. When the jumpers aren’t falling, the result is something like what happened in the first half, when Maryland averaged just a point a minute.
Wisconsin: Strangely enough, the Badgers’ next two games are against Penn State – on the road Saturday and at home on Tuesday.
Maryland: The Terps host Purdue on Tuesday night. Maryland lost to the Boilermakers on Christmas Day.