CHICAGO — For the third straight year, Maryland basketball is one-and-done in the Big Ten tournament. The Terps trailed Nebraska for most of the game and fell to an undermanned Huskers squad, 69-61.
Anthony Cowan Jr. led Maryland with 18 points, 17 of which came after halftime. Cowan wasn’t the only player who struggled to get going early, as Bruno Fernando scored just three points in the first half and didn’t score again in the second half. That’s a season low in points for the sophomore, and the first time he hasn’t scored more than nine points in a game all season. With Fernando struggling, Darryl Morsell stepped up to score 14 points, and Eric Ayala added 12 to be the last Terp in double figures.
As he did to Maryland in the first matchup, James Palmer Jr. torched the Terps again. After scoring 34 Wednesday night against Rutgers, Palmer hit his first four shots from the field on the way to a game-high 24 points. The other members of the Huskers’ big three powered them to victory, with Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaiah Roby adding 19 and 15, respectively.
After Nebraska couldn’t hit a shot in the previous matchup, the Huskers were the better offensive team all afternoon. Nebraska shot 43 percent from the field and hit eight of 22 three-point attempts, compared to 36 percent and 6-for-20 from beyond the arc for Maryland.
Both teams got off to a slow start, with Nebraska missing shots and Maryland struggling to get good looks. The Huskers would double the post on every possession, and it frustrated Fernando and never allowed the Terps to get into an offensive rhythm.
Maryland tied the game at 14-14 with 7:51 remaining, but it was all Nebraska after that. The Huskers outscored the Terps 18-6 the rest of the first half, and took a 32-20 lead into the locker room. Nebraska hit seven of its last nine shots to end the half, and after carrying his team to a win last night, Palmer started heating up as well. The redshirt senior and Upper Marlboro native scored 14 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the field and 4-for-5 from the foul line, including two threes late in the half to continue pushing the lead.
Maryland couldn’t get anything and finished the half shooting 29 percent from the field. The Huskers made limiting Fernando a priority, and he didn’t record his first points of the game until an up-and-under with 1:17 remaining in the period. Cowan couldn’t get going either, scoring just one point while spending more minutes than usual on the bench due to foul trouble.
Maryland came out with energy to start the second half, taking advantage a 1-for-10 start from Nebraska to go on a 9-0 run and cut the lead to 35-30. But the Huskers answered with the exact same run, pushing the lead back up to 14 with 12:47 to go. The Terps’ offense disappeared like it did in the first half during the run, missing eight straight shots.
Maryland cut the lead to nine before things started to unravel again. With Morsell looking for another transition layup, there was contact and no foul was called as he missed the layup. Turgeon was furious and ran onto the court, picking up a technical foul. Watson hit both foul shots, and Roby finished a layup through contact and completed the three-point play.
The Terps cut the lead to six with 2:27 to go, only for their lack of hustle on the defensive glass to bite them when it truly mattered. A three from Thorir Thorbjarnarson bounced just enough times for Johnny Trueblood to end up with the rebound, and he found an open Palmer, who drained a three to effectively ice the game.
Maryland now has to wait three days to find out its NCAA Tournament fate. The selection show will air Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s offense didn’t get going until late. Many times this year, the Terps have started slow and eventually woken up. That didn’t happen in Chicago, as Maryland didn’t show consistency on offense until too late. Even as the Terps tried to get back into the game, Nebraska never felt like it was losing control.
2. Bruno Fernando disappeared at the worst possible time. Nebraska double-teamed the sophomore from the opening minutes, and it affected him for the rest of the game. Fernando looked frustrated during almost any stoppage of play, and seemed more hesitant to drive as the game went on. His three points were by far a season low, and he didn’t score in the second half.
3. Time to wait. Another short stay in the Big Ten tournament means three more days until Maryland finds out its NCAA Tournament fate. The Terps would probably have locked up a No. 5 seed with a win Thursday, but now could possibly drop to a No. 6 seed depending on the rest of the weekend.