Despite one of their best 3-point shooting efforts of the season, the Huskers ran out of gas in the second half of the second night of a back-to-back, falling at Maryland 79-71 on Wednesday night.
Coach Fred Hoiberg sensed going in that the gauntlet the Huskers had faced the past 12 days was finally catching up to them in a real way, and that feeling proved accurate.
“Generally I give my pre-game talk and those guys fly up, they jump out of their seats, they sprint out the door and they go out and get ready for a good warm-up,” Hoiberg said. “Tonight they all sat in their chairs for an extra five or six seconds and just kind of slowly got out of their chairs and walked out the door. They’re fatigued. The stretch that we just went on after what we went through capped off tonight with seven games in 12 days was extremely difficult for our players.
“But thats not an excuse to get outworked for those loose balls like we did tonight. We have to find a way to muster up the energy to go out there and make those plays.”
Nebraska (5-14, 1-11 Big Ten) was within one possession early in the second half, but the Terrapins (13-10, 7-9) ripped off a 13-0 run to take control and pushed their lead as high as 21 before Nebraska made the score a bit more respectable with a late rally.
Teddy Allen led the Huskers with 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting (4-of-6 from 3) and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. Lat Mayen scored in double figures for the sixth time in his last eight games with 13 points on 4-of-8 from the field, 2-of-3 from deep and 3-of-3 from the line.
Dalano Banton tied his career-high with three 3-pointers on six attempts and finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He’s made a 3 in three straight games after going seven straight without one, missing all 17 attempts. He was 2-of-5 against Maryland on Tuesday, including a late clock desperation shot that didn’t fall.
“My confidence has never fell with shooting the ball,” Banton said after Tuesday’s game. “My teammates believe in me and that’s all I need. I don’t care what anyone else has to say about it, my coach believes in me and my teammates believe in me. It going in obviously feels good, but every time I shoot it I think it’s going in.”
Nebraska shot 46.4% from 3-point range, equalling Maryland with 13 makes, but just 39.3% inside the arc. The Huskers did hit 10 of their 12 attempts from the foul line. After forcing 17 turnovers on Tuesday, Nebraska turned Maryland over just four times in round two.
Eric Ayala led Maryland with a career-high 24 points and eight rebounds. After putting up 21 points in the first game, Aaron Wiggins one-upped himself with 22 points, five rebounds and three assists on Wednesday. The duo shot a combined 17-of-33 from the field including 8-of-18 from 3. Jairus Hamilton scored in double figures off the bench for the second straight night as well with 13 points o 4-of-6 shooting. Maryland shot 47.5% from the field including 39.4% from deep.
“Every mistake we made, Maryland capitalized on it, so give them credit for it,” Hoiberg said. “We turned it over, they turned it into a layup or a 3. Fifty-fifty ball or an offensive rebound, it turned into a 3. They played really well. They’re playing great basketball right now. Give this Maryland team and Mark Turgeon a lot of credit for the way that they’re playing.”
After scoring six points in the last eight minutes on Tuesday, Nebraska scored 7 in the first 2:15 in round two as Banton knocked down a 3 for the third straight game. Nebraska pulled ahead 13-9 early before the Terps rallied to tie it at 15-all.
Shamiel Stevenson hit a 3 off the dribble to put the Huskers back in front, but Nebraska went cold after that as the Huskers missed six straight shots with a pair of turnovers mixed in. The only points during that stretch came from Stevenson at the foul line as the Terrapins pulled ahead 25-20.
After a quiet start, Allen got going with a pair of buckets to pull Nebraska within one, but Maryland answered with back-to-back 3s, one off an offensive rebound and the other in transition when Maryland had numbers.
Three triples by Allen (two of them) and Mayen allowed Nebraska to make it a two-point game, but Maryland scored the last five points of the half to take a 40-33 lead into halftime.
Maryland shot 8-of-18 from 3 thanks to a combination of good half court execution, pushing the pace in transition with numbers and offensive rebounds that put Nebraska’s defense in a constant state of rotation for much of the half. Ayala and Wiggins combined for 30 points in the first half on 11-of-18 shooting (6-of-10 from 3).
Nebraska shot well from 3 as well (6-of-14) as Mayen led the way with 11 points and Allen added 10, all in the last seven minutes. However, the rest of the Huskers combined for 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
Allen found Banton for open 3s on Nebraska’s first two possessions, but things went south in a hurry after that as Maryland blew the game wide open with a 13-0 run to pull ahead 55-39.
“I still thought we went out and played with effort early and hung around,” Hoiberg said. “I think it was a one-point game with a couple minutes left [in the first half] and didn’t finish the half well. I think we went in down seven. Second half, they came out and got a quick one and then we went on a nice run and cut that thing back to one [sic] with back-to-back 3s by Dalano and we’re right there. Then it just seemed like from that point on they got every loose ball, they got every 50-50 ball, they got every offensive rebound and kick-out, and it seemed like every one of them led to a 3. That was the difference tonight, the hustle plays that they made over us.”
Maryland’s lead reached a 60-43 before Stevenson provided a spark with a finish through contact then a drive down the lane for a slam. Mayen added a layup on a slip to the basket to cut the deficit to 11.
Nebraska had a chance to make it a single-digit game with a 3 by Kobe Webster, but he missed. Hamilton didn’t miss his on the other end, then Darryl Morsell forced a turnover by Trey McGowens and laid it in on the other end to put the Terrapins up by 16. Webster finally got one to fall, but Donta Scott answered with a 3 of his own and the Terrapins continued to roll from there.
Maryland’s lead peaked at 76-55 before Allen put together a personal 11-0 run including a four-point play to cut the deficit to 10 with 95 seconds remaining.
“Teddy’s always going to compete,” Hoiberg said. “Teddy’s going to go to the rec center after the season and he’s going to go in there and be talking and competing and doing everything he can to win. That’s just who Teddy is. I thought he played really thin himself early and let the game come to him.”
Both teams cleared their benches after that and Trevor Lakes hit a 3 late, breaking the 1,000-career-point barrier.
Hoiberg said after the game that the schedule originally had Nebraska playing Maryland on Tuesday and Thursday, but Hoiberg opted to play the back-to-back instead to allow the Huskers to return home sooner and get more rest before their next game.
“It probably cost us our legs here, but I thought it was better to have a day off and then get a day to prepare and move on to the next portion of our schedule,” Hoiberg said. “Nothing’s ideal. When you get shut down for 26, 27 days, nothing’s ideal and you just have to try to make due the best you can.”
After playing seven games in a 12-day span, Nebraska will get a chance to relax briefly — Hoiberg told his players he didn’t want to see any of them in the practice gym on Thursday — before returning to the court for a Saturday afternoon game against Purdue at Pinnacle Bank Arena.