Maryland, who coaches have ranked the fourth-best team in basketball this season (AP No. 9), did what great teams always do; it made shots and then made some more shots and then kept making shots. Nebraska (7-8, 2-2 Big Ten) couldn’t keep up. The Terrapins remained unbeaten against the Huskers in 10 tries with Tuesday’s 81-63 win in Lincoln.
“A disappointing way to end that game,” head coach Amy Williams said after. Nebraska was outscored 38-24 in the second half but with six minutes left in the third quarter, was only down two. Maryland effectively ended things with a 12-2 burst and a 16-6 close to the third; the Huskers never got closer than seven.
“We had drawn to within two there and then all of the sudden, wham, they stretched it out,” Williams said. “That’s something you can expect from the No. 9 team in the country, but I feel like that was a disappointing way for us to finish that game.”
Maryland set the tone from the get-go on the offensive end. The Terps hit 61 percent of their looks in the first quarter. Nebraska couldn’t contain Maryland off the dribble and though center Kate Cain had one of her best defensive games of the season (10 boards to go with six blocks), no one else in a white jersey was a positive on that end of the floor.
“They did a really good job of putting us into positions where we were playing one-on-one defense, which is not a strength of ours,” Williams said. “We need to be very good at team defense and be able to help each other on defense. They put us into a lot of one-on-one situations and took advantage of us down the stretch.”
The Terps ran freshman guard Taylor Mikesell around screens all night and got her open look after open look from the 3-point line. She finished with 16 points on 4-of-7 shooting from deep. Junior wing Kaila Charles provided the inside presence with a game-high 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
In a lot of ways, it was an offensive clinic from Maryland as coach Brenda Frese got her 500th career win.
And the Huskers knew it was coming.
Cain said Nebraska came into the game with a “lack of focus” and lost sight of the defensive game plan. Maryland ran stagger screens often near the top of the key to free Mikesell or junior guard Blair Watson for triples. (Watson also went 4-of-7 from deep.)
Nebraska saw that on film. The plan, as both Cain and freshman forward Kayla Mershon put it, was to run their guards through those screens and chase shooters off the 3-point line. In practice, Nebraska got caught up on screens and the help defense was slow to come.
“No. 22 and No. 11, Mikesell and Watson, are fantastic 3-point shooters and the plan was to really chase them off screens and get your left hand in their shooter’s pocket all night long,” Williams said. “We had a couple plays early where we lost sight of that. We bumped up the middle of stagger screens, got caught and kind of pinballed off the screens and now, all of the sudden, they’re getting open looks. And when great shooters see the ball go through the basket early in the game, they become much more difficult to defend.”
On the other end, Nebraska looked aimless at times and unsure at others. Quickly, freshmen guards Sam Haiby and Leigha Brown have become not only Nebraska’s best offensive weapons but two of its only offensive creators. If one or both aren’t on the floor, Nebraska’s offense has struggled to create quality looks. That much was on display again.
Too often it felt like a grind to put points on the board.
Nebraska out-rebounded a Maryland team who came into the game with an average plus-14.5 rebound margin. They got 14 offensive rebounds to Maryland’s 10. Sophomore wing Taylor Kissinger had five on her own. The problem: all those extra opportunities yielded no advantage on the scoreboard. Maryland had 10 second-chance points to Nebraska’s nine.
“Find a way to take the wind out of the sails by making them pay [on offensive rebounds]. We just didn’t do that,” Williams said. “Every time they got an offensive rebound it seemed like they would kick it out and hit a dagger three on us and really capitalize on the offensive rebound.”
That 12-2 run in the third? It started with an offensive rebound and score.
For the Huskers, junior guard Nicea Eliely led the way with nine points. No one in white reached double figures scoring. Four Terrapins did. Haiby and Brown entered the day as the top two scorers averaging a combined 21 a game and they had 12 points total on 5-of-14 shooting. As a team, the Huskers shot 38 percent. Maryland hit at 52 percent.
Nebraska will have another shot at Maryland during the regular season — a road matchup on Feb. 14 — but now the attention turns to Rutgers (11-3, 3-0 Big Ten), who comes to town on Sunday. Tip is set for 2 p.m. CT on BTN.
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.