They fought to keeps things respectable at the end, but the Huskers struggled to truly threaten college basketball’s ninth-ranked Maryland Terrapins on Sunday.
Behind 25 points from guard Ashley Owusu and a murderous stretch to close the third, Maryland handed Nebraska its fourth straight loss with a 95-73 win inside Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The third quarter was the game.
Nebraska caught a little bit of a wave early, working to close a deficit that was 20 in the frame’s opening minutes. Guard Sam Haiby struggled in the first half, shooting just 1-of-6 from the field and failing to get to the free throw line. She had two points despite playing the entire first half. But just 34 seconds after the start of the third, she stepped to the free throw line for a pair of foul shots.
Forward Issie Bourne and wing Ruby Porter—back in the starting lineup—ignited a 10-0 run with hustle plays. Bourne kept a miss alive while battling under the rim and the ball found an open Porter on the left wing for 3.
On NU’s next trip down the court, Bourne sealed off the paint, caught a lookahead pass from Haiby, and muscled a shot up and in through a foul. (She converted the and-one free throw, too.)
Haiby then undercut a cross-court Terp pass and got a run-out layup to fall, bringing the deficit to 12 and forcing a Maryland timeout. Out of the stoppage, center Kate Cain blocked a Term attempt at the rim and Porter finished off an extended possession with a jumper at the other end.
Nebraska was looking to surge.
Maryland snuffed it out.
“We gave up some crucial offensive rebounds and kick-outs,” head coach Amy Williams said. She wasn’t pleased with the transition defense either. “They got some open looks, hit some 3s. I thought (forward) Mimi Collins hit several mid-range jumpers today that hurt us.”
The Terps got a 15-0 run as Nebraska went cold from the field and ended the quarter outscoring Nebraska 21-4. It was a 20-point game, and then it was a 10-point game, and then it was a 27-point game boom, boom, boom.
From that point on, Maryland was able to keep its distance.
As it was breaking away in the third, the Terps founds open corner triples and punished whoever was trying to guard Owusu. Like other Maryland players, Owusu posed a major match-up issue for Williams and Nebraska.
She bullied Haiby in the post with her strength and when Nebraska tried to play her with a forward she took them off the dribble. She shot 10-for-15 on the day and added seven assists and seven boards.
This coming a game after allowing Iowa guard Caitlin Clark to go off for 39 points, Nebraska has had major trouble of late shutting down some of the Big Ten’s elite scorers. It’s missing a Nicea Eliely type who can guard the best perimeter player on the other team.
Nebraska’s had to rely on team defense for much of the year. It broke down too often Sunday. Pick-and-roll coverages got lost, shooters flared open, help was slow. Williams said it felt like Nebraska got hit with a mack truck in the first half.
Maryland averages 92 points a game, perhaps Nebraska will find comfort in knowing it isn’t the first team to get run up on by the Terps. Owusu included, there’s just an abundance of versatility for Maryland coach Brenda Frese, who won her 500th game Sunday.
“In their transition, they get out and put a lot of pressure on you but there’s really not a lot of predictability,” Williams said. “Any person on their team can take the ball out of bounds, any person can get out and run.”
At the halftime break, four Terps were already in double-figures scoring. But. . .
“The big key is they just have a point guard (Owusu) who’s special,” Williams said. “She sees the floor, she puts pressure, she knows if you have one player that’s not quite in the right place, she can dime you with a three-quarter court pass on the money and push tempo. … It starts and stops with Ashley Owusu.”
One bright spot to come from this game: Porter’s play. A starter in the absence of Bourne for four games through January, Porter returned to the starting group Sunday and bumped forward Bella Cravens to the bench.
Williams said she’d been fighting hard in practice. With her on the wing, Bourne was able to move back to the four spot—where she looks more comfortable. The Aussie pairing produced against the best of the Big Ten.
Porter had a career-high 19 (on 8-of-14 shooting). She hit open 3s off the catch and at one point called for the ball late in the shot clock on the right wing, shot-faked, and then got to the cup as the buzzer sounded for two points. Growth from her, particularly offensively, has been encouraging for the Huskers.
And while she gave NU good minutes on the wing, Bourne looked closer to her old self on the block. A few times she used what’s becoming a patented spin over her left shoulder to go up and under on a Terp defender. She finished with 17 points (8-of-15), 10 rebounds, and five assists.
“The really impressive thing with Ruby and Issie is no turnovers at all for either one of those two tonight,” Williams said.
Nebraska, now 9-9 on the season and 7-8 in Big Ten play, will have a couple of days off before looking to rebound against Northwestern (11-4, 9-4 Big Ten) on the road on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
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.