WASHINGTON — Bryant McIntosh was asked how it felt to finally beat Maryland. And a gigantic smile took over his face.
Northwestern scored a gigantic victory over Maryland on Friday night to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
The win was monumental for myriad reasons: It's the Wildcats' first-ever trip to the semis, it cemented an NCAA tournament resume and probably boosted their seed in the Big Dance, it told a national audience that the Cats have arrived. But it was also the team's first win over Maryland since the Terps joined the Big Ten three seasons ago.
The Cats' brief history with the Terps has been one-sided, though the games have been memorable. Northwestern lost in wild fashion back in 2015, Dez Wells with a crazy put-back shot to give Maryland a one-point win. Last season, the Terps won by 13 in Evanston, and Northwestern and Maryland went to overtime in College Park, the Terps emerging six-point victors. Earlier this season, Maryland ran roughshod over Northwestern in Evanston, with Melo Trimble dropping 32 points.
So the Cats have been dying for a win against these guys. They finally got it on a big, bright stage in what was pretty much a home game for the Terps. If Northwestern is Chicago's Big Ten Team, then Maryland is Washington's Big Ten Team, and the overwhelmingly pro-Maryland crowd was raucous, screaming, booing and going nuts — either in a positive or negative manner — on every play. They were so manic they even booed Julia Louis-Dreyfus!
But it was the purple-clad fans, Louis-Dreyfus included, who were doing the cheering at game's end.
"It's our first win against them. And it's a pretty good one. I'll appreciate this one," McIntosh said with that grin getting bigger and bigger as he talked. "Had a lot of heartbreaks against them, and to get this one being in the same position we were my freshman year, up 10 with three minutes and 30 seconds to go roughly. Being in that same position, they're going to press, we need to take care of the ball, finish the game. To see us do that meant a lot."
There was a lot to be proud of Friday night for the Cats. They did everything a team needs to do to win a game like this at this time of year. They played well on both ends of the floor. They got production from Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey, guys they sorely lacked production from late in the regular season. They hit their free throws down the stretch and they got some of the best offensive play they've had all season, rattling off 20-4 and 20-2 runs, one in each half.
But to do it all against Maryland in what was essentially a home game for the Terps? That had to be even sweeter.
"We definitely have had some struggles," Law said, also flashing a smile when asked about finally beating Maryland. "In our locker room we call it the Xfinity Center magic. Every time we go there, they put that flag down, and something crazy happens. When they played Michigan State, they put that flag down, (Melo) Trimble hits a game-winning 3. But Maryland's just a really good team, and it's going to take a lot to beat them.
"I think we played really well."