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Takeaways from Maryland men’s basketball’s thrashing of Nebraska

Catch up on some takeaways from the Terps’ 22-point victory.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Needing a win to continue building positive momentum, Maryland men’s basketball put forth maybe its best performance of the season when it defeated Nebraska, 73-51.

In front of a raucous XFINITY Center, the Terps held the Cornhuskers to their lowest total of the season, while making 11 of their 26 three-point attempts.

Here are some takeaways from Maryland’s resounding victory.

The freshmen popped off

Maryland found itself down 10 early and needed a spark. Who did head coach Kevin Willard lean on? A pair of 19-year-olds.

The offensive struggles for the Terps’ highly touted freshmen this season have been well documented. Coming into Saturday’s game, DeShawn Harris-Smith had scored just 11 points in his past three games. Jamie Kaiser Jr. had gone scoreless in each of his last four games.

Halfway through the first half Saturday, thousands of fans were chanting the latter’s name — and for good reason.

When the freshman from Burke, Virginia, stepped onto the court, he took over, making three consecutive 3-pointers to catalyze what ended up being a 26-7 Maryland run. His 11 points were tied with Jahari Long — who also nailed three triples — for the most of any player after 20 minutes.

“Probably my number one day since I got here,” Kaiser said.

Harris-Smith also made his presence felt in the opening half. The former four-star recruit went 3-of-4 from the field while adding a couple of assists in the opening half.

“DeShawn and Jamie are no longer hurting us, they are helping us tremendously,” Willard said.

While the duo played just 20 combined minutes in the second half, their early impacts gave Maryland juice.

Saturday’s performance from the freshmen was a glimpse at what was expected before the season. Maryland is a different team going forward if Kaiser and Harris-Smith play like they did against the Cornhuskers.

Julian Reese was a force

Nebraska made five of its first six threes, which more aligned with Nebraska’s style of play. But Maryland also hits its triples, and coupled with a defensive effort which held the Cornhuskers to just seven points in the final 10 minutes of the half, the Terps’ offense began to open up.

With that spacing, Julian Reese took over the contest. He scored 10 of Maryland’s 30 paint points and added five points at the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Nebraska scored just 12 points in the paint all game.

“[Maryland] exposed us,” said Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg.

Defensively, Reese also got better as the game went on, registering four forced turnovers.

The junior grabbed his 12th rebound not even four minutes into the second half, eventually finishing with 16. He has recorded a double-double in four of the past six games, and has 10 on the season.

As a team, Maryland secured 17 offensive boards to Nebraska’s three, and only committed eight turnovers. Nebraska turned the ball over 19 times.

“We’re the number one defensive team in the Big Ten, and it’s not even close right now,” Willard added.

What are the implications of this win?

Since their upset win at Illinois, the Terps have been a different team. Despite one-possession losses against Northwestern and Michigan State, they’ve played on a much higher level than they did to start the season.

Maryland, which not too long ago sat 12th in the Big Ten, moved up to sixth with Saturday’s win. After Indiana lost to Illinois, the Terps moved into fifth place.

Analytically, the Terps are also improving in almost every category. Per KenPom.com, their defensive efficiency climbed from No. 12 to No. 9 in the country, their offensive efficiency went up seven spots to the 165th and their overall rank rose to No. 55.

A lot can still change, but things are trending upward for the Terps.