Maryland men’s basketball had multiple chances to close out a road win at Nebraska, but it was ultimately unsuccessful in a 70-66 overtime loss.
The Terps fell to 18-9 overall and 9-7 in the Big Ten. Maryland has in all likelihood secured its spot in the NCAA Tournament’s field of 68, but the defeat will have implications on Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament seeding.
Let’s dive into three takeaways from the loss.
Maryland had to overcome another difficult offensive start on the road.
Aside from its Feb. 4 road destruction of Minnesota, Maryland has struggled to get off on the right foot in conference road games. Coming off an ultra-emotional, program-encapsulating win over No. 3 Purdue on Thursday, perhaps this should have been expected.
The Terps trailed by at least 10 points in the first half of each of their prior six road losses. Sunday’s wasn’t as arduous to fight through due to increased defensive intensity, but shots just wouldn’t fall.
Maryland made only one of its first 10 shots and two of its first 16. Nebraska didn’t quite build a double-digit first-half lead, but its 15-6 lead more than halfway through the frame was indicative of Maryland’s woes.
“I just thought, again, with the way we came out offensively on the road, it’s just killing us,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said.
A 10-0 run gave the Terps a 16-15 lead with about seven minutes left in the first half, but Nebraska quickly regained the advantage with a 6-0 stretch; the Cornhuskers never relinquished that lead for the rest of the period.
The Terps had plenty of chances around the rim in the first thanks to eight offensive rebounds, but they only had three second-chance points in the first 20 minutes. Maryland missed more layups than it made in the first half — 5-for-11 on said shots — and couldn’t generate any sustainable offense.
Maryland’s shot selection for a bad 3-point shooting team was also poor, jacking up 11 triples in the first half. Senior forward Donta Scott shot 1-for-9 in the first half and graduate guard Jahmir Young, while making plays for his teammates with four first-half assists, was just 2-for-8 in the half.
Maryland’s early struggles were more than enough to gift an inferior Nebraska team a 31-24 halftime lead.
Hakim Hart has regained his touch from deep and Julian Reese continues to improve.
After sinking five of six 3-pointers against Illinois on Dec. 2, senior guard Hakim Hart went 16 straight games without making multiple threes. During that 16-game span, Hart shot just 17.3% (9-of-52) from deep and had seven games where he did not make a triple. Since then, Hart has made multiple threes in each of Maryland’s last three games, shooting 57.1% (8-of-14) from beyond the arc.
Maryland needed each one of Hart’s timely threes — two of which gave Maryland separate leads at critical junctures of the game.
Sophomore forward Julian Reese has had difficulty with foul trouble, picking up at least four fouls in 11 of Maryland’s 16 Big Ten games. It looked like that would haunt Reese early against Nebraska as well, as he picked up his second foul before the halfway mark of the first half. Reese was effective in 10 first-half minutes, but he turned into a monster in the second half.
Reese picked up just one foul in the second half, scoring 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the frame. He also played all five minutes in overtime — when he picked up his fourth foul but did not foul out — but he did not attempt a single shot. Reese finished the game with 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, the most a Terp had corralled since Feb. 18, 2020.
The Terps did not get enough of a complete offensive effort to be triumphant, but individual performances from Hart and Reese were encouraging.
Maryland blew a golden opportunity to pick up a road win.
Life on the road is hard, and the Terps have embodied that trend. With the loss to the Cornhuskers, Maryland fell to 2-7 on the road and 1-7 in Big Ten play. The Terps’ lone road victories have come against 4-23 Louisville (No. 277 in KenPom.com’s ratings) and Big Ten doormat, 7-17 Minnesota (No. 222).
Leading 50-42 with seven minutes and 10 seconds left, the Terps needed just a couple more plays to ice an elusive road win. But the Terps went stagnant on offense, missing their next three shots and turning the ball over once during a three-minute and one-second scoring drought.
The Maryland lead had been cut to one possession, and by the time the drought ended it was clear the game was going to be a back-and-forth battle down the stretch.
The score was ultimately tied at 58 with just seconds remaining, and Maryland had an opportunity for the win with the shot clock off. Young’s stepback two-point jumper rimmed out, sending the game to overtime.
Maryland led 64-61 halfway through overtime, once again having a chance to put the icing on the cake. But Maryland turned the ball over three more times — including a brutal Hart giveaway on an inbounds pass with 35 seconds left — as Nebraska scored nine of the game’s final 11 points.
“We had too many turnovers at crucial times,” Willard said. “I still don’t know what happened at the end of overtime only down one, but I have to go back and watch that.”
The Terps could have stolen a win despite a poor offensive performance — they shot 33.3% from the field and Scott was 2-for-16 shooting — but crumbled at Pinnacle Bank Arena in crunch time.
Maryland will make the NCAA Tournament barring collapse — a loss at Nebraska is just a quadrant two loss — but Sunday’s defeat will sting. It was a sour ending to a momentous week.