Nebraska fought back on No. 13 Maryland and had a chance to topple the defending Big Ten champions down the stretch, but a pair of offensive rebounds late proved crucial in a 77-75 loss.
Maryland, now 23-6 on the year and 12-4 in the Big Ten, won the battle on the boards in their first meeting back on Feb. 4, 49-29. Rebounding was the emphasis heading into Sunday’s rematch and though the margin was closer, Nebraska (20-9, 11-5 Big Ten) ceded huge second-chance opportunities for most of the afternoon.
But the biggest — and most costly — came late; three of the Terps’ 18 offensive boards came in the last 1:36 of the game. Did they lead to a bevy of second-chance buckets? No, but they ran time off a clock that wasn’t the Huskers’ ally and cost Nebraska at least one or two more possessions on offense. Last-second shots are great when they fall, but no one wants to rely on them.
The Terps finished with 21 second-chance points — none bigger than the two free throws by forward Stephanie Jones to retake a 76-75 lead following an offensive board — and a 47-33 edge on the glass. Still, Nebraska had its chances.
The Huskers defense, at times loose in the first half, clamped down in the game’s final frame. Nebraska held Maryland to 21 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and without a single shot from the field in the final 4:32 of the game. The Terps missed nine of their last 10 while the Huskers strung together a 10-3 run, culminating in a Hannah Whitish triple with 49 seconds left to put the Huskers up 75-74.
The Huskers had to feel good at the halftime break, too. What had once swelled to a 14-point lead for Maryland was down to eight despite only six first-half minutes from center Kate Cain (she picked up three fouls), nine offensive rebounds given up and 15 second-chance points off those boards.
Center Rachel Blackburn was huge for the Huskers in keeping the boat afloat in the first 20 minutes. She spelled Cain off the bench and added eight points and four boards without missing a shot. The point total was a season-high mark for the sophomore from Lawrence, Kansas.
Cain returned in the second half, where she scored all seven of her points, but looked hesitant at times inside, not wanting to pick up the personal that would force her to sit the rest of the game. Nebraska’s offense was strong, finishing at 43 percent shooting from the floor with 11 made triples.
Maryland was just too much inside.
Freshman forward Taylor Kissinger also left the game early in the first half with what appeared to be an upper-body injury after a hard fall while diving for a loose ball. She did not return.
The Huskers had already clinched a double-bye in the upcoming tournament, but the loss assures them of a three-seed when play begins on Wednesday.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.