As Jamie Kaiser Jr. walked off the court with under two minutes left, the Maryland men’s basketball fans rose from their seats and serenaded him with a round of applause. The freshman guard provided a key spark off the bench, hitting four threes and contributing a career-high 14 points in Maryland’s 73-51 victory over Nebraska on Saturday in College Park.
In the days leading up to Saturday’s game, Kaiser approached Terps head coach Kevin Willard to explain that he was set on helping the team win any way possible, even though he was struggling on the offensive end. Willard’s response was to keep shooting.
Kaiser listened, and his coach’s confidence paid off in the form of a career showing that Kaiser called his favorite moment with the program since he arrived in College Park.
“It’s just really exciting,” Kaiser said. “Because not only [are the fans cheering], but my teammates are also cheering me on to and that just shows how selfless of a team we have and I think that’s going to continue to carry on throughout the season.”
Nebraska (15-6, 5-5 Big Ten) entered Saturday averaging the most made threes per game in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Maryland’s opponents have clogged the lane and dared it to take outside jumpers. This strategy has been very successful, as the Terps (13-8, 5-5) came into Saturday’s game with the third-worst 3-point shooting percentage among power conference teams.
But Maryland was ready for a shootout. Kaiser showed out with three 3-pointers in a span of three minutes, helping facilitate a shooting barrage that gave the Terps a comfortable first-half lead they never relinquished.
Jahari Long, the only other player to come off Maryland’s bench until the closing minutes, also provided three triples. He has been a revelation off the bench for Maryland, hitting multiple threes in each of Maryland’s last three games.
Initially, it looked like Maryland was destined for a grim result. The Cornhuskers led 12-2, making four of their first five 3-point attempts. But a switch flipped, and Maryland put together arguably its most fluid offensive half of the season to enter halftime up 44-27.
“We talked about going out and throwing the first punch and early game was so important, and we did that,” Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We were blocking out — block-outs were great early, we get up 10 right away, and then we completely went away from what was making us successful out there in that first run. Give Maryland credit, they played great.”
Maryland imposed itself on the glass Saturday, grabbing 43 rebounds to Nebraska’s 25. The Terps also had a whopping 17-3 advantage on the offensive glass, resulting in 18 second-chance points.
On the other end, Nebraska was entirely quieted by Maryland’s defense, turning the ball over 18 times. Terps forward Jordan Geronimo was particularly active in stifling the road team, accounting for two early blocks and three first-half steals.
“We’re the number one defensive team in the Big Ten and it’s not even close right now,” Willard said. “... For these guys to come out and play the defense they have just tells you something about the character of these kids.”
Maryland was able to put together a complete performance despite a mild showing from its best player. Graduate guard Jahmir Young, who willed the Terps to victory with a game-winning layup at Iowa earlier in the week, finished with 12 points and nine rebounds but went only 5-for-15 from the field.
Picking up the slack was junior forward Julian Reese, who brushed aside Cornhuskers to make room for rebounds and finishes near the rim. He finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season.
“Definitely a great feeling,” Reese said. “In the back of your head, you know, you don’t want to be that team that lets the team come back and win. That was what we emphasized in the huddle: you know, just keep our foot on they necks. And we did.”
Three things to know
1. Bench production. Maryland didn’t extend its bench far on Saturday, but it didn’t need to. Long and Kaiser contributed 25 combined points, the most Maryland’s bench has scored against power conference opposition this season.
2. Rebounding battle. Led by Reese, Maryland entirely dominated on the boards. It corralled 18 more rebounds than the Cornhuskers, key in a runaway victory.
3. Moving on up. Just two weeks ago, Maryland was on pace to be a bottom-four seed in the Big Ten Tournament. But with Saturday’s win, the Terps are now fifth in the Big Ten standings, holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cornhuskers.