After turning the ball over for the 17th time with under nine minutes remaining against Nebraska, Maryland men’s basketball needed to start taking care of the ball if it wanted a chance to come out on top.
Around four minutes later and still trying to find their offensive rhythm, the Terps tried to get the ball into the paint, but had their pass deflected out of bounds under the basket, just barely avoiding their 18th turnover of the night.
But on the subsequent inbound play, senior guard Darryl Morsell lobbed a pass to Aaron Wiggins inside the paint, where the junior guard caught the pass and scored in one motion to put Maryland ahead by six.
Wiggins’ bucket sparked a 7-0 run for Maryland as the Terps went on to dominate the Cornhuskers down the stretch, going without a turnover for the final 8:49 of the game to pull out a 64-50 win over Nebraska on Tuesday night.
“I think we just started to be more patient,” junior forward Jairus Hamilton said. “We started to find our spots where we really need to go to and understand what they were giving us and just starting to take what they’re giving us instead of trying to force things that weren’t there, and I think that we did a really good job with just adjusting.”
Turnovers brought the Terps’ offensive rhythm to a halt early after leading 8-7 nearly five minutes into the contest, with the team forcing passes into tight windows where the Huskers were waiting to pounce. Nebraska forced Maryland into six turnovers inside the first ten minutes, having only given it away 11 times against the Gophers.
With their turnover troubles, the Terps were held scoreless for over three and a half minutes. On the other end, Nebraska looked sharp from beyond the arc.
The team’s leading scorer in Teddy Allen took a Terp defender off the dribble, which forced the defense to collapse and leave Dalano Banton wide open in the corner, where he sank the open triple to put the Cornhuskers up 18-14 and give Nebraska its fifth three-pointer of the first half. The Huskers shot 6-of-14 from three-point range in the first twenty minutes, despite coming in ranked second to last in the Big Ten in three-point percentage.
However, Maryland received a significant scoring boost from an unexpected source. Junior forward Jairus Hamilton shooting less the three three-pointers per game this season, but came out firing in the first half.
He nailed three-pointers from all over the floor, including one from the top of the key to spark a 9-0 run to put Maryland back ahead 25-21 with 5:05 left in the half.
Hamilton finished with 11 points in the first half, tying his season-high for made three-pointers in a game with three in the first frame and scoring in double-figures for the first time in seven games.
Still, the Terps continued to commit head-scratching turnovers throughout the period, allowing for Nebraska to keep things close.
With 4:03 left, Wiggins corralled a defensive rebound and looked to push in transition. Seeing Hamilton cutting toward the rim, Wiggins attempted a three-quarters court alley-oop that caromed off the rim and back into the hands of the Cornhuskers, ending a promising opportunity to build on just a two-point lead.
The Terps committed 10 total turnovers in the first half, a severe regression after showing promise in that department in their last few games.
“They got a lot of length there,” Wiggins said of Nebraska’s defense. “But it’s just us being careless with the ball. We got to be a little bit tougher mentally to make the right plays, to fake a pass and make a pass, and we definitely got to cut those turnovers.”
Nebraska totaled 13 steals on the evening, the most any team has stolen the ball from the Terps this season. The previous high was nine.
But, Maryland did finish the half with a bang, with senior guard Darryl Morsell attempting a similar feat to that of Wiggins by launching a half-court shot as the final seconds ticked away. Watching his shot from the Maryland logo at center court, Morsell’s shot miraculously banked in off the glass to give his team a boost and a 32-28 lead going into the break.
Yet despite Morsell’s heroics, the team came out in the second half by falling right back into its old habits.
Wiggins tried breaking down his defender off the dribble on the team’s first possession of the half, but was called for a double dribble, turning it over right away within the opening moments of the second.
Neither team managed to score over the first three minutes of the period, a cold spell that was eventually broken with a three-pointer from Donta Scott to put Maryland ahead 35-28 at the 16:44 mark.
But the turnover bug continued to bite Maryland as the second half progressed, constantly killing any kind of rhythm the team desperately searched for on the offensive end. Galin Smith positioned himself to receive an entry pass into the paint, but just as Hakim Hart fed him the ball, Smith was swarmed and stripped by two different Husker defenders.
On the next possession, Smith went into the low-post and again made himself available for a pass, But this time, Wiggins telegraphed the pass and his allowed his defender to steal the ball mid-air, a turnover that immediately led to a Teddy Allen jumper to make the score 40-38 in favor of Maryland with 11:58 left.
The Terps turned it over four times over the span of 3:30, breaking their single-game season-high of 16 with just under nine minutes remaining in the contest.
“It’s frustrating, I don’t know what played a role in [the turnovers], to be quite real with you,” head coach Mark Turgeon said. “It’s too many. We just gotta be better. We just gotta be better with the ball than we were tonight, and hopefully we will be tomorrow.”
Maryland managed to maintain a slim lead over Nebraska as the game progressed, but eventually saw the Cornhuskers draw back even with a three-pointer from Kobe Webster with 8:12 left.
Both teams continued to trade buckets, as Wiggins continued to hunt for his shot on offense despite struggling to score after his impressive start to the game. With the score off Morsell’s lob, he extended Maryland’s advantage to six.
Wiggins kept up his attack at the rim as he began to get going, driving to his left with Dalano Banton attached to his hip before laying in a tough basket and the foul, stretching the team’s lead to nine points as the Huskers began to lose steam.
Nebraska failed to score a field goal over the final 3:32 of the game, allowing Maryland to outscore the Cornhuskers 22-9 in the final eight minutes and eventually coast to a double-digit win in College Park. The victory marked the Terps’ first pair of consecutive wins in Big Ten play and their second win in three days. They are set to face the Cornhuskers again Wednesday night.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively and then all sudden we had it going,” Turgeon said. “We just kept talking defense, defense, defense. Let’s guard them, get three stops in a row, and just kept talking defense and try not to put pressure on our guys offensively.”
Three Things to Know
1. Jairus Hamilton had a career night. Maryland has struggled to consistently get contributions from their bench this season, but got a whole lot from Jairus Hamilton in this one. Hamilton had perhaps his best performance as a Terp on Tuesday night, tying his career-high with 15 points and burying three of his four three-point attempts, also tying a career-high in made triples.
“I was just feeling really confident,” Hamilton said. “I know that this also hasn’t been the best year for me, but just want to stay confident, stay ready for anytime they need me.”
2. Terps again find a way to win the rebound battle. It’s been no secret that this is one of Maryland’s smallest teams its had in recent memory. However, it hasn’t prevented the Terps from being able to hold their own on the glass. Maryland pulled down 43 total rebounds, marking the highest total this season since snagging 48 boards against Saint Peter’s.
3. Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins struggled beyond the arc. The Terps’ two leading scorers had a silent showing from deep in this one. Though they scored 14 points and 21 points, respectively, the duo combined to shoot just 3-for-16 on three-point attempts, with Wiggins accounting for two of the successful attempts.