Big Ten

Northwestern struggles offensively, falls to Maryland as Melo Trimble dominates

Northwestern struggles offensively, falls to Maryland as Melo Trimble dominates

EVANSTON — Sunday's win at Wisconsin might have been the biggest win Northwestern's ever had.

But it didn't change the fact that the Wildcats need Scottie Lindsey back on the floor and need him back as soon as possible.

That much was glaringly clear Wednesday night, just three days after the monumental victory in Madison, when Northwestern had another lackluster offensive performance, defeated by visiting Maryland by a 74-64 score.

Of course, a result like this might've been predictable before Sunday. After that unexpected loss to Illinois, it looked like Northwestern could wind up with a four-game losing streak considering the quality of the next two opponents: ranked Wisconsin and Maryland teams. But in surprise fashion — and without Lindsey, who missed preceding losses to Purdue and Illinois — the Cats beat the Badgers and set up new expectations for a return to Welsh-Ryan Arena.

But with Lindsey, Northwestern's leading scorer, sitting out for a fourth straight contest, the offensive production was simply nowhere to be found, quite similar to what happened in silent nights against Purdue and Illinois. The Cats finished the game shooting 39 percent from the field, a number very much in line with those put up against the Boilermakers and Fighting Illini.

And making things worse, Northwestern had absolutely no answer for Maryland star Melo Trimble. A game after shutting down one of the Big Ten's best in Wisconsin big man Ethan Happ, the Northwestern defense was carved up by the Maryland point guard. Trimble scored a career-high 32 points on 12-for-17 shooting, including a 4-for-5 performance from 3-point range.

In the first half, the Cats had look after look, but no shots were falling. They ended the first 20 minutes shooting just 32.1 percent from the field (9-for-28) and an ugly 2-for-12 from 3-point range. Offensive woes were compounded by Bryant McIntosh's limited first-half playing time. McIntosh entered on a four-game 20-point streak, but he picked up three first-half fouls and sat a significant amount of time after playing all 40 minutes against Wisconsin. McIntosh and Vic law combined to go 2-for-13 from the field in the first half. Isiah Brown and Dererk Pardon were the saving graces offensively, combining for 14 first-half points.

Meanwhile, despite strong defense from Northwestern, Maryland was having more offensive success. The Terps rattled off a 9-0 run early on and finished the first half shooting 44.8 percent from the field and hit four 3-pointers. Trimble scored 13 first-half points. Maryland had eight second-chance points in the first half and a 10-point halftime lead despite Northwestern blocking seven shots.

Maryland's double-digit lead just got bigger and bigger as the second half progressed. The Terps were red hot shooting the ball after halftime, with Trimble leading the way on his monster night. A Trimble three-point play at one point got Maryland's lead to 20 at 62-42. But the Cats rallied a bit from there, busting off a 10-2 spurt to whittle a 20-point gap down to 12 with under five minutes to play. Isiah Brown continued his big night with a three-point play that made it an 11-point game, and a Sanjay Lumpkin bucket brought the gap to single digits shortly thereafter, extending the run to 15-4 from the 20-point deficit. But Damonte Dodd put back a big second-chance basket on the other end before the free-throw shooting contest portion of the evening commenced. Through all those charity-stripe appearances over the final two minutes, Maryland remained on top and held on for a double-digit win.

The Terps were simply on fire shooting the ball for the majority of the second half. Maryland shot 56 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes with four more shots from long range. Trimble scored 19 of his 32 in the second half.

Northwestern was beat up on the boards, losing the rebounding battle by a 40-31 margin. But the Cats only turned 14 Terps turnovers into 15 points.

Brown finished with a career-high 19 points. Law and Pardon joined him in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

This stretch of three losses in four games coincided with Lindsey's absence, though there's still no update as to when the Cats' most important offensive piece will return to action. Regardless of his status, however, the schedule at least lightens up with Rutgers visiting Evanston on Saturday.

Wednesday's loss dropped Northwestern to 19-7 overall and 8-5 in Big Ten play.

When it comes to perception, this result was more a positive for Maryland than a negative for Northwestern. Both teams seem safely in the NCAA tournament's field of 68, but the Terps will get a boost from beating a good team and doing it on the road. Despite a lot of wins — their record stands at 22-4 overall and 10-3 in league play after Wednesday — the impressive wins haven't been plentiful. This one changes that. Another opportunity comes Sunday at Wisconsin.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?