Nebraska has won three of its last four games and is coming off its best offensive performance in league play.
The Huskers (13-14, 6-10 Big Ten) put up 82 points on a Rutgers defense that was ranked second nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom and hadn’t given up more than 76 points at home all season.
Keisei Tominaga (22 points), C.J. Wilcher (17), Derrick Walker (16) and Sam Griesel (12) all scored in double figures while the Huskers matched their season high for 3s with 12, hitting at a 42.9% clip.
“The biggest thing is those guys are playing with so much pace right now and the confidence that we’re getting early in games,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Our spacing has been really good, our cutting has been really good. Obviously Keisei draws so much attention. You get C.J. out there, the gravity he provides with pulling the defense closer, that allows Derrick opportunity to go to work. Griesel, I thought, was very efficient. I thought he was terrific the other night, had great control with 12, 12 [rebounds] and five [assists] and a game where he just continues to stuff the stat sheet.
“Jamarques [Lawrence] has been good, Sam [Hoiberg] is playing with a lot of efficiency, and when you have multiple weapons on the floor, and we’ve had probably a little bit more of that as of late that can knock down shots, when you can pull the defense closer that’s just going to open up opportunities for your playmakers and I think that’s as big as anything.”
Nebraska has shot 35% or better from 3-point range in seven straight games and is at 38.9% overall for that stretch, and the Huskers have topped 70 points in each of their past four after not doing so at all previously in Big Ten play.
“We’ve been in a pretty good rhythm offensively, and we just need to keep doing the same things that are getting us quality looks,” Hoiberg said. “Our percentages have been really good lately. The one thing that has cost us has been the turnovers, and when we’ve taken care of the ball and you look at our trend lately, we’re trending in the right direction. I think we had 15 at Rutgers, but when we did beat the press we got a great look and the turnovers didn’t lead to baskets against Rutgers.
“So the movement’s been really good, we’re finding the right guys, our pace has been great. Pace doesn’t always mean you have to shoot it quickly, it means get the ball over, get into your offense and then cut and screen with pace and purpose, and that’s the biggest thing that we’ve been doing and that’s why our numbers are trending in the right direction.”
The Huskers didn’t show that same offensive crispness during Friday’s practice following a mandatory two days off, but Hoiberg said they still have time to clean things up before Sunday’s rematch with Maryland (18-8, 9-6 Big Ten), a team that has won six of its last seven and is coming off a double-digit win against No. 3 Purdue.
“It gave us a good opportunity to jump them and get on them and get them focused,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve got a huge day tomorrow, two more days of prep, and hopefully clean some things up tomorrow. This team, obviously, in Maryland is playing as well as anybody not only in our league, but in the country right now. That run they went on in the second half against Purdue, that’s pretty hard to do. They opened up a 20-point lead at one point on the No. 3 team in the country.”
One of those wins was against Nebraska in College Park, 82-63 on Jan. 28. Nebraska shot 53.3% from the field including 42.9% from 3 in that game but turned the ball over 15 times leading to 20 points for the Terrapins on the other end, and Maryland scored 22 points in transition overall.
“They did to us what they do to every team pretty much,” Hoiberg said. “They’ve got such great activity and anticipation and they’ll run a very similar press to what we saw at Rutgers, and then they’ll drop back into a couple different defenses. I thought we had good attack early against them and then they bothered us with some of the things that they did as far as their switching. We had a couple of careless ones too, and the thing that Maryland does better than anybody is they convert. If you turn it over, it’s a layup on the other end or a 3 … It’s the single most important thing in this game is finding a way to take care of the ball, get a good quality shot up on the glass and then able to get back in transition and set our defense.”
Jamhir Young, a Charlotte transfer, led the Terrapins with 18 points, seven assists and six steals in the first meeting, and he’s led them all season at 16.3 points per game overall, one of four Terms in double figures.
“He’s been incredible, and in my opinion, he’s an all-league player and he does so much damage in the paint,” Hoiberg said. “He gets downhill with that left hand and he’s hard to stop if you don’t get up and win the line of scrimmage with the pick-and-roll defense or get under and get to an angle of containment. He’s so explosive getting to the rim. The other thing that killed us is free throws; they were 24-of-26 the last game we played, he was 9-for-9 and they did a lot of damage there … We do take a lot of pride in keeping teams off the line but we did not do a very good job in that game. In our double teams, we got split, we were soft in that game at at Maryland. So we’ve just got to got to clean it up, we’ve got to be better.”
Maryland is 23rd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and 32nd in adjusted offensive efficiency, adding up to 16th overall in net rating. However, five of their six wins during their hot stretch have come at the XFINITY Center, and on Sunday they’ll have to visit Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. CT on FS1.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.