Maryland basketball 20-4 (10-3 Big Ten) received quite a scare from the Nebraska Cornhuskers 7-17 (2-11 Big Ten). They survived to keep their winning streaks alive.
Last season, Maryland basketball won both of the regular-season meetings but lost to the Cornhuskers 69-61 in the Big Ten Tournament.
It wasn’t going to be easy for the Cornhuskers seeing that the Terps have been on a tear. Anthony Cowan Jr., Jalen Smith and Darryl Morsell have been leading the charge. In this game, the Cornhuskers had to battle back from multiple runs.
It was great to see Eric Ayala have a nice game against Illinois (12 points, five rebounds and three assists) after struggling to find his shot the last few games. The team needed that performance to jump-start a flurry of good games for him moving forward.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers have had a down year losing eight in a row coming into this game. What better way to win than on the road against a top 10 opponent and the best team in the Big Ten?
Cam Mack got the first points of the game for either team with an alley-oop layup. Donta Scott, Ayala and Smith scored Maryland’s first three baskets.
At the under 16 media timeout, the Terps had an 8-7 advantage. Nebraska came out playing at a good pace and the only question was, could they keep it up?
The Terps lead grew to nine points, 16-7, on an 8-0 run after Cowan Jr. converted an and-one opportunity. Midway through the first half, both teams were shooting poorly from the three-point line (2-of-16) but turnovers were low (three).
The Cornhuskers went on a 9-2 run of their own to keep the game within three points, 20-17 before Scott hit a three from the left corner.
Under four minutes to go in the first half, Nebraska had an opportunity to close the gap on the Terps. Smith had to go to the bench with his second foul.
Maryland basketball finished the half up 38-25. Cowan Jr. led all scorers with 11 points and Smith had nine points and 10 rebounds. The Terps were 13-0 when leading at halftime.
Nebraska’s Thorir Thorbjarnarson led the Cornhuskers with 10 points, five rebounds and two assists.
While Maryland pulled away in the first half, Nebraska’s ball movement was impressive.
The three-point shot was a scarce commodity for both teams as they were a combined 5-of-29.
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Both teams came out scoring efficiently in the second half. Nebraska was making every scoring opportunity count and they cut the Terps lead to seven, 47-40. Jervay Green scored their last five points during this run.
The lackadaisical defense caused Maryland basketball head coach Mark Turgeon to call a timeout.
A nice sequence of ball movement allowed Scott to hit a three. The Cornhuskers were fighting to get the lead within striking distance of five points. They were down 54-45 midway through the second half. Thorbjarnarson and Matej Kavas combined for 26 points with more basketball left to be played.
They went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead down to 54-49. Thorbjarnarson and Green put the Cornhuskers in position to tie the game or take the lead with a score of 56-54. The Terps were in danger of an upset if they didn’t play lockdown defense.
Ayala hit two threes to give the Terps some breathing room. That basket gave him 16 points and five assists. Their lead was back up to 10 points, 64-54.
Ayala got back into a rhythm the team knew he was capable of and it came at a great time.
Cheatham scored more than 15 points in the second half to bring the Cornhuskers within four, 66-62.
Morsell knocked down a huge three to give the Terps a 71-64 lead and the last minute or so of the game was not a cakewalk. They had to work hard to hold on.
The game came down to free throws. After Mack cut the Terps lead to 71-70 with free throws, a Smith block at the other end on his drive saved the day.
This game was too close for comfort. Maryland basketball just barely fell into the trap.
The Terps survived this one to win 72-70. Smith, Scott and Cowan Jr. had double-doubles. Ayala got his groove back and finished with 16 points and five assists. He shot 50 percent from the field and three-point line. Nebraska’s Cheatham and Thorbjarnarson combined for 35 points and 13 rebounds.
The Terps go to the Breslin Center to play Michigan State on Saturday. The Cornhuskers will play Wisconsin at home on Saturday as well.