Make that eight victories in a row for Maryland women’s basketball. Entering Thursday night’s showdown against Nebraska in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, the No. 7 Terrapins rolled to an 89-63 victory in front of the Xfinity Center crowd.
Maryland jumped out early, but Nebraska kept the game close through the first half. Then the Terps found another gear in the third quarter, turning a seven-point lead into 24. A 20-0 run between the third and fourth quarters put any drama to rest.
Kaila Charles scored 19 points in the team’s first win against Nebraska over a month ago, and on Thursday, she was even better. The junior led all scorers with 22 points, hitting 9-of-19 from the field and adding six rebounds across 32 minutes of play. Blair Watson was electric on offense and defense, finishing second in the game with 17 points. She hit five of her eight field goals, including 4-of-7 from downtown. Brianna Fraser and Shakira Austin were solid inside, combining for 24 points and 15 rebounds to control the paint.
Maryland has struggled with ball control this season, but against Nebraska, the Terps were extremely efficient in passing the ball. They turned it over just eight times on the night to 13 assists, while Nebraska committed a total of 19 giveaways and failed to get in a groove all night.
It couldn’t have been a better start for Maryland, which began the game on a 9-0 run. Watson had the first bucket just 14 seconds into play, and the Terps would lead the rest of the way. Watson, Charles and Shakira Austin scored the first 15 points of the game, allowing the Terrapins to push their advantage to 11 points just over six minutes in.
Nebraska fought back to end the first quarter and begin the second, as the Cornhuskers made four of their first seven three-pointers to cut the deficit. While they never were able to tie the score or take a lead, a Taylor Kissinger bomb from beyond the arc cut the score to 29-26 midway through the second quarter. That’s how the half would end, as the teams traded baskets in the final five minutes. Maryland raised the lead back to nine points multiple times, and when halftime rolled around, the Terps had a 41-34 lead.
But in the third quarter, the Terrapins did damage and put the game out of reach. Down by just eight points four minutes into the second half, the Cornhuskers lost their composure. Hannah Whitish was assessed a technical foul at the 6:25 mark, and while Watson split the free throws, that was the beginning of the end for Nebraska.
Three minutes later, Maryland pushed its lead to 55-45 after a Brianna Fraser layup through a foul. That triggered the under-five media timeout, and during the break, Nebraska head coach Amy Williams was given a technical foul as well. Stephanie Jones hit both free throws, and the Cornhuskers didn’t score for the rest of the quarter.
Including Fraser’s basket, the Terrapins went on a 20-0 run in just under five minutes of play that extended into the final period of action. The Terps’ lead ballooned from eight points to 28 in a flash, and that was in large part due to their three-point shooting. Mikesell hit a pair of three-pointers in that stretch, including her freshman record-breaking triple to put herself in the Maryland history books.
Despite holding a 28-point lead in the fourth, the Terrapins never let up. Their lead never dipped below 24 points, and by the time the final buzzer sounded, they had a 26-point cushion on the Cornhuskers.
Maryland will be back in action on Sunday in Iowa City. Tipoff against the No. 14 Hawkeyes is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET and the game can be watched on ESPN2.
Three things to know
1. The second-half run was amazing. Nebraska started to derail a bit in the third quarter, but the deficit was certainly manageable, as it was within 10 points. But after Amy Williams’ technical foul, the game was over. The Cornhuskers failed to score in over five minutes, and in that time, the Terrapins drilled a trio of three-pointers to get out to a 28-point lead in a flash.
2. Blair Watson was sharp. From the start of the season to now, Watson’s play has been somewhat erratic. Coming off a torn ACL and getting back on the court was a great accomplishment, but the junior hadn’t really had any signature games to this point. But against Nebraska, she was lights-out. Watson tied the game high with 17 points thanks to a stellar 4-of-7 shooting performance from beyond the arc. That included a buzzer-beating triple to end the third quarter, extending Maryland’s lead to 24 points.
3. Time for Iowa. Maryland’s biggest win of the season came on Sunday against Rutgers, and exactly one week later, the Terps will face their biggest test of the year. They’re going up against Iowa, which is ranked No. 14 in the AP Poll and was just given the No. 10 overall seed in the first NCAA selection committee rankings (one spot above Maryland). Led by superstar center Megan Gustafson, the Hawkeyes present a real challenge for the Terps.