With about two minutes remaining in the second quarter Thursday, Maryland men's lacrosse defenseman Curtis Corley knocked the ball out of Owen Mead's stick. Then, Matt Neufeldt cleared the ball and passed to Logan Wisnauskas, who found attackman Jared Bernhardt in front of the net.
Bernhardt fired a shot past goalkeeper Max Edelmann, taking advantage of a transition opportunity and sending the No. 1-seed Terps into halftime with a two-goal lead. Bernhardt's score came after midfielder Connor Kelly had recorded two goals earlier in the half, meaning the duo provided half of Maryland's first-half scoring in the first half of the Big Ten tournament semifinal matchup against No. 4-seed Rutgers.
A week after going 0-for-24 in a win against No. 7 Johns Hopkins, Bernhardt and Kelly scored a combined five goals in Maryland's 12-9 win over the Scarlet Knights. On Saturday, the Terps will face the winner of Thursday night's semifinal between Johns Hopkins and Ohio State.
The win secured Maryland's spot in the Big Ten tournament title game for the fourth time in as many seasons. Coach John Tillman's team improved to 6-0 against the Scarlet Knights since joining the Big Ten in 2014.
"What's great about Jared is today wasn't his best day," Tillman said. "There are days where he's played better. But he had the self confidence to get the ball against the best defenseman in our league and just be aggressive."
Maryland entered the matchup having won six of its last seven games, but its sluggish performances against Ohio State and Johns Hopkins the last two weeks left room for doubt entering the postseason. But the Terps' second meeting with the Scarlet Knights was a decisive and reassuring victory.
Maryland required a fourth-quarter rally to top the Scarlet Knights earlier this season. On Thursday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bernhardt and Kelly's production sparked the offense. Midfielder Bubba Fairman recorded a hat trick, and attackman Logan Wisnauskas recorded two scores.
From the outset, the Terps attack was aggressive. It took Kelly, who was wearing a knee brace after getting banged up last week against the Blue Jays, barely over a minute to give Maryland a lead. His second score, with 37 seconds remaining in the first, tied the game at three entering the second quarter, when Bernhardt helped Maryland gain momentum.
Rutgers attackman Connor Vercruysse caught the Terps defense ball-watching and gave the Scarlet Knights a 5-4 lead with about seven minutes before the intermission. But then, Maryland responded on a 3-0 run to take a 9-7 advantage entering halftime.
And in the third, Bernhardt took control. He scored two of the first three goals in the third quarter to give Maryland a lead it didn't lose in the second half.
"We give him the green light because we have so much trust in him," Tillman said. "You've got to trust your best players. We have a lot of faith in Jared."
After struggling at the faceoff X against the Buckeyes and Blue Jays, the Terps won 14 of 24 faceoffs Thursday. The Terps defense held the Scarlet Knights offense, which was without attackman Kieran Mullins because of an illness, to fewer than 10 goals. The effort enabled Maryland to secure its most complete win since its 13-5 rout of Michigan on March 31.