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Maryland women’s basketball falls short at Nebraska, 87-81

The Terps fell in their first Big Ten road game of the season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

A fiercely physical, competitive and high-energy game unfolded between Maryland women’s basketball and Nebraska, culminating in a nail-biting finish — a tension-filled free-throw showdown in the dying seconds. The Cornhuskers were forced to capitalize on their trips to the line as the Terps found some success from the field in their comeback attempt.

The Terps ultimately fell short in a thrilling contest, succumbing to an 87-81 defeat.

“A tough day for us, just saddled with foul trouble most of the game,” said head coach Brenda Frese. “And I thought they obviously took it to us on the glass all night.

The contest commenced with Maryland (9-4, 1-1 Big Ten) focusing on its passing and interior play. This was notably highlighted by forward Allie Kubek’s adept maneuvers in the paint.

On the defensive front, Maryland allowed 3-point attempts. Entering the game, the Cornhuskers (10-3, 2-0) had sunk 8.3 3-pointers per game compared to its opponents’ 5.1. However, within the initial six minutes, Maryland’s zone defense proved effective, limiting the Cornhuskers to a mere 1-for-4 shooting on 3-pointers and forcing several unsuccessful shots in the paint, notching four blocks in the first frame.

The Terps’ early offensive aggression resulted in several and-one opportunities and an impressive seven free throws during the opening quarter.

The initial five minutes of the second quarter showcased the Cornhuskers adapting adeptly to the Terps’ defensive strategy. They embarked on a brief scoring spree, netting five points off Maryland turnovers and sinking two transition threes.

Although the Terps managed to keep pace by hitting two 3-pointers of their own, they encountered difficulty scoring from mid-range, despite numerous open looks.

However, the momentum shifted in Maryland’s favor as the first half drew to a close. Led by freshman Riley Nelson, the Terps surged on a 7-3 run, converting four of their final five field goal attempts to narrow Nebraska’s lead to just one.

“[My teammates] were finding me, getting me open looks and I was just being aggressive and hunting my shot,” Nelson said.

In the third quarter, Maryland consistently avoided ill-advised outside shots, maintaining a preference for aggressive interior play.

Defensive rebounding presented a palpable challenge, notably evident when Nebraska’s Natalie Potts secured two consecutive offensive boards, leading to a score while being fouled.

When asked what the Terps could have improved upon on the defensive end, Lavender Briggs kept it candid.

“Honestly, just being more disciplined and communicating with each other and boxing out,” she said. “It’s kind of simple.”

Midway through the quarter, the Terps struggled, hitting only two shots in a string of 10 attempts. Nevertheless, Briggs emerged at a crucial juncture. In the third quarter alone, she boasted a flawless 4-for-4 performance from the field, notching nine points.

“I thought our bench was huge,” Frese said. “Having Lav [Briggs] back healthy now and Riley [Nelson] coming off the bench.”

Despite Briggs’ contributions, the Cornhuskers orchestrated a commanding 6-0 run in the latter stages of the third period, compelling the Terps to call a timeout. The recurring issue with securing rebounds haunted Maryland, as Nebraska dominated the boards with a 13-7 advantage in the frame. Adding to the challenge, the Terps’ six turnovers further hindered their comeback efforts.

The early moments of the fourth quarter were marked by a series of pivotal 3-pointers from Nebraska. Each time the Terps rallied with a 2-pointer, the Cornhuskers swiftly countered.

As Maryland narrowed Nebraska’s lead to just six points, the Cornhuskers persisted in dominating the offensive boards, continuously resetting the shot clock and draining precious time. Despite the relentless effort, the Terps eventually managed a defensive stop, and Nelson responded with a vital mid-range shot, slicing the deficit to four points.

However, Nebraska drew pivotal fouls, sealing its victory by confidently sinking crucial free throws to secure the win.

Three things to know

1. Winning streak snapped. The Terps had not lost a game in over a month, but their seven-game winning streak was snapped Sunday. Maryland’s rebounding struggles flared up again against the Cornhuskers, being outrebounded 48-30.

2. Shyanne Sellers struggled. The typically reliable junior guard had a drop-off in performance. She fouled out with five minutes remaining in the game and accrued seven turnovers. From the field, she went just 1-for-7 and scored a season-low four points.

“I thought they keyed in on her,” Frese said. “They guarded her really hard and made her have to take difficult shots.”

3. Briggs stepped up in her return. Despite being out since Nov. 25 due to injury, Briggs showed plenty of promise in her first game back. Coming off the bench, she was instrumental in Maryland’s comeback attempt. She tallied 25 points, her most as a Terp.