Photo Credit: John Peterson

Nebraska’s First-Half Struggles Strike Again in Loss to No. 11 Maryland

January 22, 2023

Nebraska women’s basketball couldn’t pull off a season sweep of No. 11 Maryland on Sunday, as the Terrapins got off to a fast start and never looked back in a 69-54 win.

Despite a 15-point final difference, Maryland led by at least 20 for over half of the contest. Its 37 points in the first half weren’t particularly outstanding, but that didn’t matter much as the Huskers started slow once again.

Nebraska scored a season-low 14 first-half points, the fifth-lowest first half mark in program history. At the break, the team had made just four field goals and had 14 turnovers.

The Huskers have been sunk by slow starts often this year, including their two most recent losses to Ohio State and Rutgers. Head coach Amy Williams made note of the frequency postgame.

“This is just one of those games where it’s like, we keep saying the same things over and over,” Williams said. “Can’t let ourselves dig ourselves a hole early, we can’t get off to slow starts, and I think we’ve got to really find a way to learn from that and make a change and just really ask ourselves, ‘What do we want this team to be down the stretch?’ And we’ve got some things we really need to improve.”

The opening seven minutes of the game were rather pedestrian. Maryland scored the first four points and never trailed, but two free throws from Alexis Markowski made the score 8-6. Nebraska seemed to be in for a low-scoring first quarter, but the Terrapins broke away from the trend with a 10-0 run to end the period.

Eight of the points on that run came at the free throw line. Nebraska was called for six fouls in the quarter and 27 on the game, the whistles often upsetting the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd of 5,715. Maryland turned those calls into 37 free throw attempts, making 25.

“I thought Maryland did a good job of really trying to get into our bodies aggressively off the dribble and trying to go at us,” Williams said. “We had a few frustration fouls where we’re frustrated about something and we might foul away from the basket, and that gets you closer to the bonus, and just not much of a flow in this ballgame because of all the fouls.”

Nebraska’s offense never found any sort of flow in the first half. Between the midpoint of the first quarter and final minutes of the second, the Huskers made just one field goal in a stretch of over 13 minutes. They got to the free throw line a few times in that span, but were held to single digits in both of the first two quarters.

At the conclusion of the half, their points were equal to their turnovers, along with being even with Diamond Miller’s 14 points for the Terrapins.

The second half wasn’t much better for Nebraska, as Maryland kept its advantage above 20 until the final minutes of the game. The Husker offense picked up their production, but as Williams said postgame, it was “too little too late.”

They picked up an additional concern in the second half as well. Markowski, held to just two points in the game, picked up a fourth foul midway through the third quarter. Williams said she also “re-tweaked” her ankle injury suffered early against Purdue, and the center stayed on the bench for the final 15 minutes of the contest. She played the rest of the game against the Boilermakers on Wednesday, and Maryland led by 24 when Markowski subbed out, so it’s possible the move was just precautionary. Still, the head coach said they’re focused on getting her back to full health.

Guards Sam Haiby and Maddie Krull also suffered minor injuries over the course of Sunday’s physical game, but it doesn’t seem as though there’s cause for concern. Both re-entered the game after their respective injuries. Haiby jammed her finger, while Miller fell onto the leg of Krull.

Nebraska’s going to have some time to refocus and get players back to full health ahead of its next game. The Huskers don’t play again until Saturday, when they take on No. 10 Iowa on the road.

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