Maryland men’s basketball’s weekend effort against Nebraska felt nothing like an individual effort focused match. Plenty of players on the Terps’ squad jogged away from the rim with the familiar satisfaction of an extra tally on the scoreboard.
And that feeling came often for Maryland’s players. Boosted by one of the most unselfish offensive performances of the Terps’ season with a joint season-high 16 assists and five players in double-digit scoring, Maryland (14-7, 5-5 Big Ten) bulldozed Nebraska (10-12, 4-6 Big Ten) Saturday, 82-63.
“I would say this was one of our highlights of the year,” Patrick Emilien said. “Just moving the ball, everybody getting touches, everybody’s contributing equally, and just knowing where to go.”
The win sent Maryland to 5-5 in Big Ten play and 3-1 in its last four games.
The Terps were favored by 11.5 points before tip-off against the Cornhuskers, the largest amount Maryland has been favored by this season in a Big Ten game.
But the Terps came out to an inconsistent rhythm against the Cornhuskers and their leading scorer, Derrick Walker. Walker held a 15-pound weight advantage over Julian Reese and used every bit of edge and his strength in the paint during the opening minutes.
“That’s a tough matchup in the fact that they bring him away from the basket and they space out shooters,” coach Kevin Willard said. “I’m a big fan of Derrick, he’s done it to everybody in the league.”
The Nebraska forward racked up high-percentage layups in the paint and guided his team to an early 13-8 advantage with eight points. But Maryland pushed back with a crowd-pleasing reverse dunk in the paint from Reese and caught a break when Walker subbed out at the 12:30 mark.
With Walker off the floor, Maryland supplied enough points to pull back ahead with a three from Donta Scott and a three-point play from Jahmir Young, highlighting a 9-5 run in the about two minute span Walker sat on the bench.
Sam Hoiberg broke out with several makes from deep to help the Cornhuskers keep pace with Maryland. The son of Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg had only ever played significant minutes in a college basketball game in the Cornhuskers’ most recent outing against Northwestern, but finished with a career high 15 points against the Terps.
A balanced scoring attack featuring eight points from Emilien and Young as well as a perfect 13-for-13 mark from the free-throw line gave Maryland a 10-point advantage at halftime. Maryland finished a stellar 24-of-26 from the line.
“Making sure we have the right guys shooting free throws, [Hart] and [Young] got there, again, I think that’s been a big difference [because] we’ve been aggressive getting to the basket.”
Reese only garnered eight first-half minutes as he grabbed two early fouls. Emilien seemed to prove more effective against Walker in the paint and stuffed a lay-up attempt from the Cornhusker forward.
“[When] we put [Emilien] who’s a little undersized, I thought that went our way, that was a big difference,” Willard said.
The lead seemed to not inspire much stellar offensive play out of the Terps as the second half dawned with a freezing start featuring four straight misses from the field that didn’t end until a Don Carey swish from three.
That broke the mold for Maryland. After a pair of made free throws, Young plucked a wayward pass from Walker, who had been closely guarded by Emilien, and took the ball down the floor for a quick score.
Soon after, Young stole the ball and sprinted down the floor on another fastbreak score, but it wouldn’t be the point guard this time. The Charlotte transfer floated up basketball into the air, and Scott took flight for an alley-oop slam to give Maryland a 15-point lead.
The Terps had the Cornhuskers in a dire spot, but they continued to find ways to hang around with some efficient shooting between Maryland scores. However, Kevin Willard’s squad had found an impressive offensive formula that kept producing and rousing the crowd with every fastbreak, with the Terps finishing with 20 points off turnovers.
“[Maryland] converts off of miscues as well as any in the country and we had too many turnovers,” Fred Hoiberg said.
Five Maryland players eclipsed double-digits in scoring and the combination of Young and Hart finished with an impressive 12 assists. Maryland was able to trot out its reserves in the waning minutes as the Terps won their sixth straight game at Xfinity Center.