The miracle run through the Big Ten Tournament for Coach Tim Miles and the short-handed Huskers continued on Thursday as the 13th-seeded Huskers knocked off the No. 5 seed in Maryland 69-61 at the United Center in Chicago.
Nebraska (18-15) rolled with seven players once again including heavy minutes for its top three, but the Huskers showed no signs of fatigue.
Senior James Palmer Jr., playing the full 40 minutes for the second straight game, led all scorers with 24 points on 8-of-13 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3 and 5-of-8 from the free-throw line with five boards and three assists.
Senior Glynn Watson Jr., who has also played the full 80 minutes through two tournament games, finished with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting (3-of-5 from 3) and 4-of-6 from the line with four rebounds and three assists.
Junior Isaiah Roby struggled offensively again (6-of-17 shooting) but still finished with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Senior Tanner Borchardt grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and chipped in two points while Thorir Thorbjarnarson, getting his second straight start in place of injured guards Thomas Allen Jr. and Amir Harris, snagged five steals, corralled four rebounds and chipped in four points.
Senior walk-on Johnny Trueblood played 25 minutes and was plus-10, making him pus-38 in 77 minutes over Nebraska’s last three games. He had played 77 total minutes in his career prior to the senior day game against Iowa. Trueblood finished with five points, three rebounds and two assists.
The Huskers shot 43.6 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from deep and 68.4 percent from the line. On the other end, Nebraska held Maryland (22-10) to 36 percent from the field including 6-of-20 from 3.
Nebraska threw double-teams at Maryland’s star center Bruno Fernando and held him and his frontcourt partner Jalen Smith to a combined 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. The Huskers outscored the Terps 30-22 in the paint, battled them to a draw on the glass (33-33) and outscored them 11-3 in second-chance points.
Maryland’s length and shot-blocking gave the Huskers problems in the first half as Nebraska missed its first six shots — two of which were blocked — but the Huskers matched Maryland’s defensive intensity on the other end, biding themselves time until their offense got going.
After the first 12-and-a-half minutes, the game was tied at 14-all. Then the Huskers kicked it up a gear on both ends and ripped off a 13-2 run to take a 27-16 lead. Through solid on-ball defense and double-teaming in the post, Nebraska held Maryland’s top two scorers, Fernando and point guard Anthony Cowan Jr., scoreless for the first 18 minutes of the game.
Cowan finally got himself on the board with a free throw, but Palmer answered with his second 3 of the half. Fernando cut Maryland’s deficit to 10 again with his first field goal, a three-point play, but Watson knocked down a pull-up jumper for the Huskers and Nebraska forced a turnover on Maryland’s last possession to take a 32-20 lead into the locker room.
Palmer picked up where he left off on Wednesday, hitting all four of his field goals and four of his five free throws in the first half for 14 points. Watson added seven points as the Huskers hit seven of their last nine shots to finish the first half at 45.8 percent from the field including 4-of-9 from 3.
Nebraska forced seven Maryland turnovers and converted them into seven points. The Terrapins shot 29.2 percent from the field, converting just seven shots, and they did not score a second-chance point.
Roby knocked down a 3 on Nebraska’s second possession of the second half to give the Huskers their largest lead of the game at 35-21 54 seconds into the second half.
Then the dreaded scoring drought hit. The Huskers missed 10 straight shots and surrendered a 9-0 run over the course of 5:09 of game time. However, Borchardt rebounded the 10th miss and got the ball back later in the possession on a feed from Roby, laying it in with 2 on the shot clock. That sparked a 9-0 answer for the Huskers with a pair of tough buckets by Palmer and a 3 by Watson, giving the Huskers a 44-30 lead.
After a put-back by Roby that made it 46-32, the Huskers hit a rough patch once again, turning the ball over twice and missing two shots as Maryland scored five straight. Watson threw the ball away and gave Maryland a fast break opportunity but Palmer sprinted back and forced a miss in transition by Darryl Morsell and Watson grabbed the board. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon came onto the court arguing the no-call and was whistled for a technical.
Watson hit both free throws then found Roby on the ensuing possession for a three-point play to push the lead back to 14 with just over eight minutes to play.
The teams traded buckets over the next few minutes until Maryland managed to score five straight to pull within eight. The Huskers answered with a free throw by Watson and a layup by Palmer to push it back to 11 but Maryland made one last big push. Cowan hit a 3 after an offensive rebound then knocked down two shots at the line to make it 61-55 with 2:27 to play.
Thorbjarnarson missed an open look from the corner late in the shot clock but Trueblood took the rebound away from the 6-foot-10 Fernando and kicked it out to Palmer who ran more clock before drilling his third triple of the game.
Maryland hit some shots down the stretch, but got no closer than seven as Nebraska made enough plays to keep the Terps at bay.
— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) March 14, 2019
The Huskers will take on No. 4 Wisconsin in the quarterfinals on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 25 minutes after the conclusion of the first game of the day, No. 1 Michigan State and No. 8 Ohio State, which is set for 11:30 a.m. on BTN. The Badgers beat the Huskers 62-51 at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Jan. 29 in Nebraska’s first game after losing Isaac Copeland Jr. to a torn ACL.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.