Up 21 points with seconds to go in the first half, No. 11 Maryland women’s basketball’s budding star, freshman guard Bri McDaniel, ripped the ball from Nebraska’s Jaz Shelley, who finished with 29 points in the team’s previous meeting on Dec. 4 — the first time Maryland ever lost to Nebraska. Shelley managed just 10 on Sunday.
In an ugly half of basketball, one familiar star shined bright. Senior guard Diamond Miller dominated all over the court Sunday, especially in the first half, finishing with 14 points in the opening 20 minutes.
The Terps took the sour taste in their mouths after its shocking 23-point defeat and put forth a dominant effort. Maryland outscored the Huskers early and never looked back, keeping its foot on the gas and cruising to a 69-54 victory.
Prior to the game, head coach Brenda Frese said that the Terps needed a strong defensive performance to finally get a consistent 40-minute effort. They did that, forcing the Huskers into 22 turnovers.
“We were really locked in and intentional. We were disappointed, clearly, in December. We allowed way too many threes,” Frese said. “Super proud of our defense. I thought we set the tone just initially from from the tip.
Both teams were locked in defensively to start. Offensively, it was ugly, but Maryland’s aggressiveness troubled Nebraska all game long.
Despite both teams averaging nearly a combined 150 points per game prior to Sunday, they shot 5-for-35 from the field after one quarter.
But the Terps got to the line and took advantage of Nebraska’s sloppiness, ending the frame on a 10-0 run to take an 18-6 lead.
For the eighth consecutive game, Frese’s squad took a commanding lead after the opening quarter and continued that, extending the lead to 20 points midway through the second.
Facing an 8-0 run, the Huskers finally did something positive, as graduate guard Sam Haiby knocked down a free throw to cut the lead to 23, forcing a sarcastic cheer from a packed crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Maryland held a 37-14 lead at the half, forcing Nebraska into 14 turnovers, scoring 17 points off them with the Huskers shooting just 4-of-24 from the field.
“We were very conscious of how they want to play inside out so fighting their posts and just having good help side side while just having each other’s back and being aggressive in their offense,” Miller said.
A more even game was shown in the second half, but Maryland maintained its lead. Nebraska came out of the break with newfound energy, but the Terps were able to match it for the most part.
The physicality and chippiness ramped up as the minutes waned down, but the Terps had no problem countering a comeback effort, never letting the lead get below 15 points in the second half.
Nebraska’s chippiness was something Maryland took advantage of all day, knocking down 25 free throws on 37 attempts.
“The ability to get to the free-throw line, which was big for us, then just locking down on the defensive end,” Frese added.
The Terps didn’t let the Huskers crawl back into this one, allowing just 40 points in the second half, a huge improvement from Nebraska’s 59-point second-half showing in the last matchup.
“We just executed the game plan,” Miller said.
It was a dominant win, with yet another impressive showing from Maryland’s guards. Shyanne Sellers finished with 20 points; Miller had 18. Sellers also notched a double-double, the second of her career.
“Coach is very persistent on attacking the paint. So I just keep trying to stay with that and let the game come to me. And then once teams start to double, I start to kick out and I think it just reopens the floor back up for me,” Sellers said.
Three things to know
1. The Terps avenged their Dec. 4 loss in dominant fashion. 36 points: that was the difference in point total Sunday from the Huskers compared to just over a month ago, when it dropped 90 points on Maryland. Maryland learned from its defensive lapses and was locked in all afternoon.
2. A 40-minute defensive effort. In the past few games, Maryland had come out strong before letting teams find their way back into games. It was a different story Sunday, as the Terps locked down on defense for most of the game. They allowed just 54 points, their lowest mark in the Big Ten so far. To sustain success in conference play, this was the defense they need to continue.
3. Diamond Miller was cool, calm and collected. In the last meeting, with WNBA scouts in attendance, Miller did not rise up to the occasion. She was 3-for-12 from the field with five turnovers. Sunday, the script was flipped. The player who averages over 18 points per game looked like just that, outscoring the Huskers in the game and finishing the contest with 18 points.