The No. 16 Maryland men's basketball team recovered from a first-half slide to beat Nebraska at Xfinity Center on Thursday, 69-65, setting the Terrapins up for a showdown with No. 5 Wisconsin in the same building Tuesday.
Maryland lost an 11-point first half lead and fell behind early in the second half, but a strong closing act pushed the Terps past the visiting Cornhuskers. For Maryland, Melo Trimble was the catalyst.
Whether he was ready for college basketball or not, Trimble delivered the most complete performance of an increasingly scintillating freshman season. He scored 26 points on nine shots from the field to go with five assists and six rebounds. None of his teammates were nearly so efficient, but Dez Wells and Jake Layman both reached double figures for the Terps.
Maryland (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten) pieced together one of its best offensive starts of Big Ten play. Trimble executed a quick steal-and-score before the game was 30 seconds old, and Maryland scored 18 points in about the game's first 10 minutes. Even against Nebraska's anemic offense, though, the Terps couldn't totally pull away. The Huskers, who entered shooting a comical 29 percent on three-pointers, hit six of their 14 tries from deep in the first half, helping to keep their halftime deficit at a single point despite letting Maryland shoot 52 percent from the field. Nebraska ended the half on a 12-2 run, while Maryland's offense slowed considerably after a strong beginning. The Terps had led by 11 with a shade more than five minutes left of the opening 20.
The Huskers (13-13, 5-9) jumped to a four-point lead at the outset of the second half, but a 10-0 Maryland run seemed to restore the Terps' equilibrium shortly thereafter. As has been the case in so many of Maryland's recent home games, a series of traded runs followed, as the margin stayed within a possession or two until the final minutes. Two late three-pointers from Trimble gave Maryland the separation it had been seeking for much of the night, as the Terps took an eight-point lead with just more than two minutes to play. That, though, was an answered pair, as two Nebraska threes from Walter Pitchford made it a three-point game again in the final minute. Nebraska couldn't dent its deficit any more, though, and Trimble and Layman closed the game at the foul line.
Three things we learned
1. Dez Wells and Richaud Pack led the way on defense. Wells and Pack split the unfortunate duty of guarding Nebraska wing Terran Petteway, who's one of the better players in the conference. Petteway isn't all that efficient, because he needs to shoulder so much of Nebraska's load on offense that opposing defenses can key on him to mitigate the damage he can do. Wells and Pack each spent spurts guarding Petteway, and neither Maryland guard required regular double-team help. Petteway couldn't regularly shake either of them, and a fourth personal foul midway through the second half didn't help him get back on track. Petteway had eight points on 2-of-14 shooting in one of the worst games of his career. Pack and Wells were largely to thank for that.
2. Melo Trimble flashed the full range of his skills. Trimble did a lot right for Maryland Thursday. He was stunningly efficient, scoring three points per shot attempt and making 10 of 11 free throws. He rebounded, finishing with six of those. And he was a dynamic playmaker, using the threat of his ability to get to the rim to force the Cornhuskers to leave his teammates open – whom Trimble, more than once, found for an open shot on his way to five assists. When Trimble's clicking like he was, there aren't many point guards better in college basketball. His two late three-pointers gave Maryland the oxygen it needed to avoid a disaster on its own court.
3. For Maryland, the beat goes on. The Terps haven't played what you might call a "complete game" since Jan. 17. That was five weeks and, now, eight games ago. For a fourth-straight home game, Maryland traded blows with an ostensibly lesser opponent, and for a fourth-straight time, Maryland escaped, narrowly. The Terps moved to a close-to-impossible 8-0 in games decided by six points or less, inching past the 300th-most efficient offense in the country by four points at home. For another night, it wasn't pretty. It is still hardly sustainable. But Maryland is 22-5, with Wisconsin's offensive juggernaut rolling through town next Tuesday night.