MILWAUKEE - They trailed in each half of regulation play by double-digit margins. They seemed on the verge of caving in to Wisconsin's three-point barrage more than once. And only the strong play of their much-heralded bench helped them survive to play an extra period.
When it was over at the Bradley Center last night, the Maryland Terrapins had swallowed a bitter, 78-75 loss in overtime to the Badgers.
Maryland fell to its first 1-3 start - albeit with a schedule against three ranked teams - since coach Gary Williams took over in College Park in 1989, and the No. 13 Terps fell because they lost their composure in overtime.
"I think this was a big game for us even though we lost it," Williams said. "I thought we competed a lot better than we did out in Hawaii against a good Wisconsin team that has a lot of experience and got to the Final Four last year."
The Badgers scored the first five points of the extra period to take control, while Maryland's first three overtime possessions resulted in two missed foul shots by center Lonny Baxter and two turnovers.
Guard Kirk Penney started the overtime by hitting a three-pointer before point guard Mike Kelley scored his first points of the night by hitting a 14-footer to give Wisconsin a 67-62 lead.
The No. 23 Badgers never led by fewer than four points the rest of the way, as forward Charlie Willis, making the first start of the year, followed a missed 25-footer by Terence Morris by making two free throws to extend Wisconsin's lead to 69-63 with 1:20 to go.
"I knew we had a tough schedule," Morris said. "But to start the season 1-3, I never thought about anything like that."
Said Juan Dixon: "It's bad. I didn't expect this. We're still a good team. And we still have a chance to be a great team."
Wisconsin came out of the locker room and promptly schooled the Terps by setting excellent screens to counter Maryland's man-to-man defense and by making open three-point shots. The Badgers also exposed a familiar Maryland problem by beating the Terps early on the offensive boards.
Three minutes into the contest, Wisconsin sprinted to an 11-2 lead, prompting Williams to call a timeout.
Penneys' first three-pointer from the wing gave Wisconsin a 5-0 lead, which the Badgers extended to 11-2 on Penneys' second three-pointer from the corner with 17 minutes left in the half.
During that three-minute stretch, Maryland committed two turnovers and got beaten on the glass for two offensive rebounds, while the Badgers continually found open outside shooters with extra passes.
Dixon, who sparked Maryland with 13 first-half points, finally scored Maryland's first basket with 16:30 left to pull the Terps to within 11-4. But on the strength of three-pointers by Willis and guard Ricky Bower, Wisconsin hit four of its first six threes. Wisconsin held a 21-10 lead with 13 minutes left.
Morris, who struggled early defensively for Maryland, pulled the Terps to within 21-15 with back-to-back baskets, the last coming from three-point range at the top of the key. The Terps then stalled by missing outside shots that were rushed early in different possessions by Dixon and Byron Mouton.
The half then began to turn Maryland's way after the Terps employed a 3-2 zone to counter Wisconsin's ball movement on the wings.
After guard Roy Boone made a three from the corner to give Wisconsin a 26-19 lead with nine minutes remaining, that was pretty much it for the Badgers' offense for the rest of the half.
After a traveling call against Maryland forward Tahj Holden, the Terps forced a Wisconsin turnover and went on a 7-0 run to forge the game's first tie at 26 with 6:28 left.
Dixon got it started with a 10-foot jumper, then followed up with a twisted 14-footer in the lane to trim the lead to 26-23. Then, off a nice feed from Dixon, Blake hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to tie the score.
The Badgers, who committed several turnovers against the Terps' zone during Maryland's run, regained a 31-28 lead on Willis second three-pointer of the half. Mouton then grabbed an offensive rebound and stuck in a 10-footer.
Dixon gave the Terps their first lead at 32-31 with 2:48 left on a tough shot in traffic from beneath the basket.
After Mark Vershaw hit a 14-footer to give Wisconsin a 33-32 lead, the Terps scored the next five points.
Baxter powered into the defense for a layup, Dixon hit a free throw, and Holden took a Blake pass on the baseline and converted a 15-footer to make it 37-33 with 57 seconds left.
MARYLAND-Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Morris 2-9 4-6 9, Baxter 5-8 3-7 13, Dixon 5-13 2-4 12, Blake 3-8 4-4 12, Mouton 6-9 2-2 14, Nicholas 1-3 5-6 8, Mardesich 1-1 0-0 2, Holden 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 25-56 20-29 75. WISCONSIN-Kowske 2-8 2-2 6, Wills 4-6 5-6 15, Penney 6-15 2-4 18, Kelley 1-3 3-4 5, Boone 3-9 4-6 11, Bower 3-7 0-0 9, Mader 0-2 0-0 0, Vershaw 3-8 8-8 14. Totals 22-58 24-30 78.
Halftime-Maryland, 37-34. End of regulation-62-62. 3-point goals-Maryland 5-14 (Blake 2-4, Holden 1-1, Nicholas 1-2, Morris 1-4, Miller 0-1, Dixon 0-1, Mouton 0-1), Wisconsin 10-30 (Penney 4-11, Bower 3-7, Wills 2-2, Boone 1-7, Vershaw 0-1, Kelley 0-2). Fouled out-Blake. Rebounds-Maryland 33 (Dixon 7), Wisconsin 37 (Kowske, Kelley 6). Assists-Maryland 12 (Blake 7), Wisconsin 18 (Kelley 12). Total fouls-Maryland 22, Wisconsin 22. A-7,521.