INDIANAPOLIS – The Maryland men's basketball team rode an offensive explosion and barrage of three-pointers to a 97-86 win against Nebraska in a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal on Friday night. The Terps had a double-digit lead for most of the evening but let the Huskers back into the game in the final few minutes, although there was no real danger.
Maryland's win pits the Terrapins in a semifinal against Michigan State at 3:30 ET on Saturday afternoon. The winner of that game will face the winner of a Michigan-Purdue semifinal in the league final on Sunday.
The Terps boat-raced the Huskers from the start. Jake Layman and his friends started the Terps 7-of-7 on threes, and the Terps were a silly 9-of-10 from outside by the time the teams retreated to their locker rooms for halftime. Maryland's offensive excellence went deeper than that, though, with the Terps getting a handful of great looks via the pick-and-roll and precision passing around the court. Their half-court offense hasn't looked so good in ages.
Layman had 26 points, while Diamond Stone had 23 and Melo Trimble 16. Robert Carter Jr. chipped in 13 for the Terps, who finished the night shooting 59 percent from deep and 60 percent overall. Maryland gave up 86 points despite holding Nebraska to 47 percent shooting on the other end.
Maryland's offensive exhibition started early. Layman canned four triples in a row in the first six minutes of the game, and Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon pushed Maryland to a ridiculous 9-of-11 for the first half as a whole. When a team shoots 82 percent from deep over an entire half of a college basketball game, there isn't much more to be said.
But that wasn't all. Maryland's ball movement in the first half was extraordinary, and Stone has rarely looked better. He made the half his personal highlight reel whenever Layman wasn't dropping in three-pointers. He worked neatly with Trimble on the pick-and-roll and put poor Jack McVeigh on a poster forever.
He also connected with Carter on a Mona Lisa of an alley-oop.
At its best, this is what Maryland's offense can look like.
The second half barely mattered, as Maryland had gone to the break with a 54-37 lead. Nebraska was out of gas and didn't have any credible shot at ever catching the Terrapins. The Terps kept on creating open shots and made them until there was no more serious statement to be made. Their offense looked picturesque.
Nebraska made a push toward competitiveness as the half went on, getting within single digits at the two-minute-remaining mark. But the Huskers didn't get closer than six points, and it wasn't the sort of broad-based collapse that Maryland fans have come to fear over the course of the season. The Terps recovered and didn't have a problem.
Three things to know.
1. Nebraska isn't good and was tired, but this was mostly encouraging. Crushing a team like Nebraska – playing its third game in three days and one night after an emotional upset against Wisconsin – isn't noteworthy, in or of itself. But the way the Terps beat the Huskers does matter. They moved the ball well; it was no coincidence that their shooting numbers were so solid. They were unselfish and took smart shots. It wasn't perfect: The Terps were up by 15 or 20 points for a long time and let the Huskers back to two possessions down at one point.
2. Layman was the ring leader. What a night for Layman, who entered with a career high of 27 points in a single game and went on to finish with 26. His shot was pristine, but he was also formidable on the drive and playing hands-in-face defense against Nebraska's Michael Jacobson and others.
3. Melo Trimble was efficient. Trimble still hasn't shot better than 50 percent from the field in a real (read: non-Bowie State) game since Feb. 3, against these same Huskers. He's been pretty good in a few of those games, often on the strength of foul shooting or rebounding. But Trimble isn't really Trimble if he's not making the shots he takes from the floor, and he finally did on Friday night. He was 6-of-12 overall and 4-of-6 on triples.