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Maryland women’s basketball escapes Nebraska, 77-75

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The Terps’ three-game losing streak ends with a dramatic win on Senior Day.

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Bridgeport Regional-Maryland vs Oregon David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In the final minutes, things looked to be going against Maryland women’s basketball. The Terps had led most of the game, but had never been able to break it open. Nebraska finally fought all the way back in the fourth quarter, and Hannah Whitish hit a three with 39 seconds left to give the Huskers it first lead since they hit the first shot of the game.

But Stephanie Jones stepped up when Maryland needed a big play. The sophomore hit two free throws with 33 seconds left, then stuffed Jasmine Cincore on the next possession. The Terps would never trail again, and Maryland hung on to beat the Huskers on Senior Day, 77-75.

Kaila Charles paced Maryland’s offense, scoring 13 points in the first half and then six key points in the fourth quarter, and added 11 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season. Eleanna Christinaki finished with 13 points, and Brianna Fraser added 12 points off the bench.

Nebraska also had a relatively balanced offense, and Whitish was the spark, finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals. The sophomore also hit four threes, but couldn’t hit her final one for the win with three seconds left.

Maryland’s defense looked strong at the end of the beginning and end, holding Nebraska to 32 percent shooting in the first and fourth quarter. Maryland could not take advantage late, and didn’t have a field goal the last 4:32. However, the Terps were much improved in the two things they struggled with during the losing streak: three-pointers and the offensive glass. Maryland went 8-of-17 from beyond the arc, and had 18 offensive rebounds on 37 missed shots.

Although Nebraska struck first with a Nicea Eliely three, it was Maryland who would get off to a fast start. The Terps scored the next seven points and led by as much as 10 in the opening frame. They even got a few threes to fall, and Channise Lewis’ triple with 6:21 remaining in the quarter was their first three in over 67 minutes of play. Like in the game in Lincoln, Nebraska hung tough and cut the lead to five at the end of the quarter.

The second quarter followed a similar pattern. Maryland looked in control and ready to run away with the game, leading 37-23 after a Kaila Charles three-point play with 4:36 to go in the quarter. The Huskers pushed back and took advantage of some Maryland lapses on defense, and cut the lead to 42-36 before Charles drove through the lane for a layup in the final seconds of the half.

Christinaki hit two free throws to push Maryland’s lead back to 14 with 4:45 to go in the third quarter, but once again, Nebraska fought back, cutting the lead to five heading into the final frame.

The Terps pushed the lead to 69-59 with 6:30 remaining, but it still wasn’t enough. They started to make questionable decisions on offense, and whenever they got a stop, they would usually turn it over. Letting Nebraska stay in the game finally cost them late, as Whitish hit a three with 49 seconds left to give the Husker their first lead since scoring the game’s first basket. But Jones hit two free throws on the next possession, and Charles hit another on Maryland’s next offensive possession, which was enough for the win.

Maryland finishes the regular season 23-6 and 12-4 in the Big Ten and will be the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament. It will start postseason play Friday in Indianapolis.

Three things to know

  1. The Terps could never pull away, and it almost cost them. This one felt like Maryland’s last home game against Purdue. The Terps led most of the way, and whether it was fatigue or not capitalizing on stops, just couldn’t finish until the very end.
  2. The defense still needs some work. Maryland looked like it had broken out of its defensive funk to start the game, but that didn’t last. Nebraska shot 56 percent from the field in the second and the third quarter, and got baskets when they needed them late.
  3. Steph Jones made some huge plays late. Whenever there are close wins, it always seems like Jones makes the big plays. While Charles would seem to be the go-to player, Jones has come up big multiple times in close games.