Nebraska played second-seeded Maryland to a 14-14 draw over the course of the first ten minutes of Saturday’s semifinal at the 2018 Big Ten Tournament. The scoreboard read 15-14 when the first horn sounded, but Maryland benefited from two technical foul shots before the game even tipped (the Terps only made one) on account of a numbering error by Nebraska.
There were four lead changes and two ties during the game’s first frame and the lead never stretched beyond two possessions. In other words, it was as close as it’s been all season between these two. But, the lead never changed hands again over the final 30 minutes as Maryland (26-6, 12-4 Big Ten) saw four go into double-figures scoring and ran away from No. 3 seed Nebraska (22-10, 11-5 Big Ten), finishing with a 66-53 win to send the Huskers home.
Over the second and third quarters, the Huskers were outscored 32-18 while shooting 4-of-23 from the field and coughing it up seven times. Forward Maddie Simon scored nine quick points in the first quarter but failed to register a single point the rest of the way. Guard Hannah Whitish — whose 17 points and steady shooting led the Huskers to a quarterfinal win over Michigan a night earlier — slipped back into a funk, finishing with six points on 12 shots.
Center Kate Cain was limited to 21 minutes by foul trouble, but she was far from the only Husker to hear the whistle Saturday night. Eight players out of head coach Amy Williams’ 12-woman rotation had at least two personal fouls. Maryland drained as many free throws (19, on 24 attempts) as Nebraska attempted.
Maybe the choppiness of the game threw the Huskers out of rhythm offensively, or credit belongs to the Terps, but Nebraska struggled to get going. Even in that first frame, Nebraska still only shot 39 percent from the field.
Guard Janay Morton, Nebraska’s offensive sparkplug off the bench, scored six of her team-leading 15 points in the final two minutes of the game — a 6-0 Nebraska run that made the final score look a little bit more respectable — but she was the only Husker to sustain any semblance of offensive rhythm throughout the evening. Nebraska finished at 31 percent shooting despite a 40 percent clip from downtown (8-of-20 on 3s).
In what was the third game this season between the two teams, the Huskers lost the rebounding battle for the third time. The margin was only eight, but it was spearheaded by Maryland forward Eleanna Christinaki, who finished with a game-high 16 boards to go along with her 14 points.
While Maryland will play Sunday against the top-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten crown, the Huskers will head back to Lincoln to await their NCAA Tournament fate. Nebraska feels like a tournament team — ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the Huskers as an 11-seed and one of his last four in — but it will have to wait until Monday, March 12, to know for sure.
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.