COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — The 11-point halftime lead was long gone, and Maryland suddenly was tied with a surging Wisconsin team that hadn’t lost in more than six weeks.
In other words, the Terrapins were in perfect position to come away with another tight victory.
Dez Wells scored 26 points, and No. 14 Maryland held off fifth-ranked Wisconsin 59-53 Tuesday night, ending the Badgers’ 10-game winning streak and ruining their bid to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title.
Melo Trimble added 16 points for the second-place Terrapins (23-5, 11-4 Big Ten), who finished the game with a 12-6 run.
“We knew we had the poise and toughness to win the game,” Wells said.
The Terrapins improved to 9-0 in games decided by six points or fewer, and they’ve won their last three by a total of 17 points. Although Wisconsin had an opportunity to take the lead in the closing minutes, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said it wouldn’t have mattered.
“We’ve been in so many close games, we’d have just kept doing what we do,” Turgeon said. “Our guys were really determined tonight, starting with Dez Wells.”
Wells went 9 for 17 from the floor, nailed all seven of his free throws and led the team with seven rebounds and four assists.
“He was not going to let us lose,” Turgeon said.
Frank Kaminsky scored 18 for Wisconsin (25-3, 13-2) and Sam Dekker added 14. The Badgers’ winning streak was their longest since an 11-game run in 1941 to win the national championship.
Wisconsin hadn’t lost since Jan. 11 at Rutgers.
“We were close a couple of times but we just couldn’t do it. It’s definitely frustrating,” Kaminsky said. “We’ve had a great season so far. We’ve haven’t really been tested like this many times like this. … I think we’re going to learn a lot from it.”
The victory improved Maryland’s home record to 17-1. After the final buzzer, hundreds of fans stormed the court to celebrate the Terrapins’ most significant win in their inaugural Big Ten season.
“We are what we are. We figure out a way to win,” Turgeon said. “We compete when we have to. I’ll take close wins as long as we keep winning. We’re really becoming gritty and tough.”
Maryland led 55-52 before Trimble made a driving layup and was fouled. He missed the free throw, but after Wisconsin misfired twice on the other end, Trimble iced it with a pair of foul shots. The Badgers missed nine of their last 10 shots.
After scoring a season-low 20 points in the first half, Wisconsin opened the second half with a 13-4 run to close to 35-33. Kaminsky made three baskets during the spree and Josh Gasser made Wisconsin’s second 3-pointer of the game.
After Maryland bolstered the margin back to six points, Dekker made a pair of 3-pointers and Nigel Hayes connected from beyond the arc to bring the Badgers to 45-44 with 8 minutes remaining.
The game was tied at 47 before Wells made four straight free throws to put Maryland ahead for good. His dunk made it 53-48 with 4 minutes to go.
Maryland limited Wisconsin to 30 percent shooting (1 for 11 from beyond the arc) before the break.
The 20 points were the fewest scored by the Badgers in the first half this season, and marked the first time they trailed after 20 minutes since Dec. 3 in a loss to Duke.
Even in defeat, the Badgers appreciated the enthusiasm of the sellout crowd.
“Man, this place is great,” Dekker said. “I can’t say enough about how great their fans were. They were into it right away. It was a pleasure playing here.”
Turgeon was appreciative, too.
“Our student section gave us great energy. We fed off that,” he said.
Wisconsin: The Badgers fell to 8-2 on the road. … Wisconsin came in leading the nation with fewest fouls (12.7) and fewest turnovers (7.4) per game. In this one, the Badgers were called for 12 fouls and had eight turnovers.
Maryland: Wells has scored in double figures in eight straight games. He moved past Joe Smith into 25th place on the school scoring list. … Michal Cekovsky, a 7-foot-1 center, played 14 minutes in the first half, matching his total over his the last three games. He finished with four points and six rebounds.
Wisconsin: hosts Michigan State on Sunday.
Maryland: hosts Michigan on Saturday.