Junior guard Nicea Eliely scored a season-best 18 points, but that was about the only thing that went right for the Huskers Thursday night on the road in an 89-63 loss to No. 7 Maryland.
Maryland has had Nebraska’s — and head coach Amy Williams’ — number over the years, but the Huskers seemed to be closing the gap on the Terps, the class of the Big Ten, late last season. The last time these two teams met at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland, Nebraska fell by just two. Thursday night was a step in the wrong direction. The 26-point margin marked the worst defeat Nebraska has suffered in two years.
But the Huskers were in the game at halftime. Twelve first-half points from Eliely (on 4-for-6 shooting) and a strong start on the glass had the Huskers down by only seven at the break. It looked to be another competitive fight between the two, something the first game of this season series wasn’t (an 18-point home loss on Jan. 8).
Things spiraled in the third quarter and they spiraled quickly.
Nebraska trailed 53-45 with 3:19 to play. Freshman forward Kayla Mershon had scored seven straight for NU before junior point guard Hannah Whitish had just gotten a jumper to fall to bring the deficit back inside single-digits. (Whitish finished with seven points on eight shots, seven assists and seven turnovers; not the best.)
Maryland closed the remainder of the quarter with 16 unanswered points, eight of which came in the final 44 seconds.
It proved to be the knockout punch, as the Huskers never got closer than 24 the rest of the way.
Nebraska, which fell to 6-8 in the Big Ten and 11-14 overall, got 11 points from Sam Haiby off the bench as the only other Husker in double figures scoring. Haiby connected on five of her eight shots, Eliely got six of her 10 to fall; the rest of the Huskers were a combined 11-for-38 from the field. Center Kate Cain had seven points and eight boards, but foul trouble limited her to just 23 minutes. Her backup, freshman Ashtyn Veerbeek, was even less effective. The forward had two points (1-for-6 shooting) and five rebounds with four fouls in 14 minutes.
Junior guard Kaila Charles powered Maryland with 22 points and six boards, one of five in double-digits for the Terps. Junior guard Blair Watson added 17 points, forward Brianna Fraser had 14 points off the bench while Stephanie Jones and Shakira Austin each pitched in 10 to help Maryland improve to 23-2 overall and 12-2 in the Big Ten.
The Huskers out-rebounded Maryland, 42-41, but were beaten in almost every other area. Maryland dominated the paint, outscoring Nebraska 40-24. It forced 19 Nebraska turnovers while committing just eight itself and turned those giveaways into 19 points while Nebraska converted Maryland’s turns into just two points. Maryland outshot Nebraska from the field and made more free throws (23) than the Huskers took (20).
The Huskers return home to battle another top-25 team on Sunday, when they welcome No. 24 Michigan State (17-7, 7-6 Big Ten) to Pinnacle Bank Arena. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. CT.
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.