Maryland men’s basketball snapped a three-game slide away from home with a 60-45 road win over Nebraska on Wednesday night.
The No. 24 Terps (18-6, 9-4 Big Ten) started the game cold, but it was Nebraska that would go frigid from the field as Maryland took control of the game. Maryland responded positively to a 9-0 Nebraska run at the start of the second half that turned an 11-point lead to just two, getting the lead back up to double figures and keeping it there down the stretch.
Jalen Smith took the scoring load for Maryland, finishing with his third double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. His frontcourt-mate Bruno Fernando continued his streak of double-doubles, with 13 points and a career-high 19 boards to notch his sixth straight and 15th overall. Isaiah Roby was the only bright spot for Nebraska, finishing with team-highs of 20 points and 14 rebounds. James Palmer joined Roby in double figures with 14, but was a virtual non-factor.
Outside of the opening eight minutes, the Terps stifled Nebraska, holding the Cornhuskers to just 21 (!) percent from the field for the night (compared to 38 percent). Maryland also shored up its problems in transition, holding Nebraska to just two fast-break points, though it still gave up 12 points off turnovers.
Eric Ayala picked up where he left off against Wisconsin, drilling a triple to open the game, but Maryland would hit just one of its next nine shots before a triple from Serrel Smith Jr. broke a 10-2 Nebraska run. Overall, Maryland started just 3-of-13, and trailed 15-8 by the under-12. But Smith went on a personal 11-0 run over the next six minutes, taking the game into his hands and giving Maryland a 19-15 lead.
Smith would twist his ankle on the final bucket of that stretch and leave the game briefly, but the run did not stop. Maryland extended it to 15 straight points and take a 23-15 run into the final media timeout of the half. Smith would return shortly after and finish the half. After opening slow, the Terps put the straps on Nebraska and held it without a field goal for over nine minutes. The Cornhuskers would break that drought before the break, but Maryland still took a 28-20 lead into halftime.
Roby was a problem for the Terps early, scoring 12 of Nebraska’s first 15 points and 13 of its 20 for the half. Smith obviously went into the half as Maryland’s leading scorer, though, all eight players who played, scored in the first half for the Terps.
Just like to open the game, Ayala started the second half with a triple to put Maryland up double figures for the first time. It didn’t last, as a 9-0 run from Nebraska brought the Cornhuskers within two, at 31-29. The next few minutes saw Maryland stabilize its lead with a 10-1 run, punctuated with a dunk and stepover from Fernando that drew a huge reaction and technical foul on Nebraska coach Tim Miles.
The Cornhuskers responded to the tech with a triple, but Maryland clapped back with an 11-2 run to go up 52-35, and stretch its lead as high as 20. From there it wouldn’t get within 10 again, even with a 7-0 Nebraska run mixed in.
Maryland now has six days before its next game. After playing five of their last six games away from College Park, the Terps return to the Xfinity Center looking for revenge against No. 15 Purdue on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Three things to know
1, Jalen Smith was a man on a mission. After scoring Maryland’s last seven points, including the game-winner, the first time these two teams matched up, “Stix” used a personal 11-0 first-half run to give Maryland control of this game. He continued to push, ending with third double-double and showed his offensive prowess and improved physicality in this one.
2. It was a balanced scoring night for Maryland. It took Fernando a while to join Smith in double figures, but head coach Mark Turgeon got solid contributions even beyond those two. All eight Terps who saw minutes against the Cornhuskers scored, and six of those ended with more than five points.
3. It still gets harder from here. Maryland gets a break for a little under week of rest before starting a stretch that will include three-straight teams currently ranked in the top 20. Maryland has past history with Purdue, after falling by two on the road in December, then will take on Michigan and Iowa back-to-back on the road.