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.