Wildcats can’t overcome 20-point deficit in loss to Trimble, Maryland

The Northwestern Wildcats, a team that continues to meet and exceed its expectations this season, had no answer for Melo Trimble Wednesday night.

EVANSTON, IL - FEBRUARY 15: Northwestern Wildcats guard Isiah Brown (12) controls the ball against Maryland Terrapins guard Jaylen Brantley (1) in the first half during a game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Northwestern Wildcats on February 15, 2017, at the Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

EVANSTON, IL – FEBRUARY 15: Northwestern Wildcats guard Isiah Brown (12) controls the ball against Maryland Terrapins guard Jaylen Brantley (1) in the first half during a game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Northwestern Wildcats on February 15, 2017, at the Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire)

The Wildcats cut a 20-point deficit to as little as nine late in the second half, but it wasn’t enough as Trimble’s career-high 32 points led the Maryland Terrapins to a 74-64 victory over Northwestern at sold-out Welsh-Ryan arena.

“I’m sure there’s things we could have done a little bit better,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “When I watch it I’m sure there were some breakdowns at times. But sometimes too, a really great player is going to have a night like that and it’s going to make it tough.”

Isiah Brown led the late charge for Northwestern, scoring 11 of his 19 points in the second half. It was a career-high for the freshman, who led the team in scoring but couldn’t make up for their otherwise poor shooting night.

“Tonight was one of those nights we really needed him,” Collins said. “We needed him to be aggressive, we needed him to attack because we were having a hard time scoring and that’s something he does really well.”

Northwestern couldn’t make a bucket from the start, with the team shooting 2-for-12 from behind the arc in the first half. Vic Law and Bryant McIntosh shot a combined 7-for-25 from the field and McIntosh struggled to say in the game, picking up three early fouls.

But even as there appeared to be a “do not enter” sign over the Wildcats’ rim, defense kept it close, forcing 14 Maryland turnovers. A combination of that along with grit and hustle kept Northwestern in much of the game before Trimble put it out of reach in the second half.

It was Northwestern’s fourth straight game without Scottie Lindsey, the team’s leading scorer, who has been out with an illness since February 1. The Wildcats are 1-4 without Lindsey, and have not scored more than 68 points in any game during this stretch, a significant drop for a team that had been averaging almost 74 points per game this season.

And don’t let that otherwise encouraging win over Wisconsin without Lindsey, as big as it was in the story of this season, take away from the fact that if Northwestern wants to do any damage in the Big Ten or NCAA tournaments, they need Lindsey back in the lineup.

“It’s no excuse but he averages 16 points a game,” Collins said of the junior guard. “So when you’re playing really potent offensive teams, we’ve had to win with our defense without him. We’re not capable right now of throwing up 75-80 points, we just don’t have enough fire power”

Northwestern has five games left in the regular season, starting at home against Rutgers on Saturday, a team they beat by only nine in their first meeting in January.