Maryland men’s basketball has struggled to find depth scoring all season.
Its bench went scoreless in games against Northwestern, UCLA and South Alabama and averaged just eight points off the bench against high-major opponents entering Saturday, forcing its leading scorers to carry the load.
But against Nebraska, players like Young — on pace for the Terps’ second-best individual scoring season in the 21st century — were offered some reprieve. Reserves Jahari Long and Jamie Kaiser Jr. entered the game and each scored 11 points in 10 first-half minutes.
The unlikely duo helped Maryland men’s basketball to a 17-point halftime lead as the Terps dominated Nebraska, 73-51, in College Park. Maryland (13-8, 5-5 Big Ten) held an opponent to more than 20 points below its scoring average for the second-straight game as it got back to .500 in conference play.
“We only had three guys who really knew what they were doing defensively [at the beginning of the season],” coach Kevin Willard said. “DeShawn [Harris-Smith] and Jamie are no longer hurting us, they are actually helping us tremendously. They’re both smart defenders.”
Kaiser and Long finished with 14 and 11 points, respectively, and accounted for all of Maryland’s 25 bench points, a season-high against high-major challengers. Kaiser, a freshman, recorded a career-high in points and three-pointers made with four, largely due to his first-half performance.
“I approached [Willard] during the week and I was just telling him like my offense hasn’t been clicking all year pretty much but I want to do everything I can to help the team win whether that be grabbing rebounds, extra possessions … getting steals,” Kaiser said. “He said ‘yeah, keep doing that but just keep shooting.’ He said I have complete and total confidence in you, and I really appreciate that from him.”
That rare bench boost helped the Terps surge back from an early seven-point deficit. Nebraska (15-6, 5-5 Big Ten) started 5-for-6 from deep, with five different Cornhuskers making threes for its first 15 points of the game.
But Maryland’s reserves provided pinpoint three-point shooting of their own.
The Terps made six of seven long-range attempts after a 0-for-3 start as Long, Kaiser and DeShawn Harris-Smith fired home. Long and Kaiser combined to go 6-for-8 from deep as Maryland took its first lead of the game halfway through the opening frame.
Maryland finished Saturday’s game shooting 11-for-26 from deep, recording its third-best three-point percentage in a game this season at 42.3.
Nebraska scored just seven points in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Maryland went on multiple runs in which they scored seven, eight and nine unanswered points to take a commanding 17-point lead into halftime.
Second-chance points were crucial to each of those runs. Maryland dominated on the boards in the opening half, securing 10 offensive rebounds to the Cornhuskers’ nine defensive boards and finishing the opening half with 16 second-chance points.
Maryland outrebounded Nebraska 43-25 and scored 25 points off of Nebraska’s 18 turnovers.
“That was definitely a point of emphasis with this team, especially since we’re not really the tallest team, to try to play with the most heart and just try to take care of rebounding and the little things like that,” Reese said. “Rebounding and second-chance points, that can be the decider of the game down the stretch.”
Reese dominated after the break, grabbing half of his joint career-high 16 rebounds and scoring nine of his game-high 15 points in the second half. He fueled an early 13-2 run in the second half with the help of Jordan Geronimo and Young three-pointers to extend the Terps’ lead to 25.
Maryland’s advantage hovered around 20 for the remainder of the game as the Terps’ usual scorers led the way in the second half. Young added eight after the break to finish with 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting from the field.
His rare off-day didn’t matter, as the Terps’ strong first half powered by Long and Kaiser off the bench helped them cruise to a runaway victory over the Cornhuskers.
“We did a great job rebounding the basketball, we controlled the glass. We did a great job shooting and I think it’s all starting to come together,” Long said.