Second-half collapse dooms NU again in loss to Maryland
As has been the theme for Nebraska all season long, it had several stretches where it played more than well enough to pull out a win over Maryland on Friday night.
But, once again, a critical scoring run by the Terrapins turned a close game into another ugly defeat, as the Huskers fell 90-74 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Maryland used a 12-3 run to open the second half to turn a 42-40 halftime lead into an 11-point advantage in less than three minutes to take control and never looked back.
The Terrapins (12-14 overall, 4-11 Big Ten) dominated in the frontcourt on both ends of the floor. They out-scored NU 46-28 in the paint and 21-7 in points off turnovers while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and going 24-for-33 at the free-throw line.
Bryce McGowens (25) and Alonzo Verge (14) combined for 39 of Nebraska’s 74 points, but only one other Husker scored in double figures, as NU shot just 40% with 12 turnovers.
With the loss, Nebraska dropped to 7-19 and 1-14 in league play.
Nebraska led for the first 10 minutes of the game and was up 19-14 after a layup by Kobe Webster. But Maryland came back with an 11-2 run to take its first lead and go up by as much as five with 7:22 left in the first half.
While the Huskers didn’t make a field goal for the final 4:47, they only went into halftime down 42-40 behind going 12-of-14 from the free-throw line and making four 3-pointers.
But Maryland soon broke the game open with a 12-3 run to open the second half and led 54-43 after the first three minutes.
It wouldn’t get any better from there, as the Terrapins followed that up with another 14-2 run and eventually went up by as many as 20 with 6:43 remaining.
From the end of the first half on into the start of the second, NU managed just one made field goal over a span of nine minutes of game time.
The Terps shot a blistering 59.3 percent from the field and got to the line for a whopping 20 free throws in the second half. Fatts Russell led the way with 23 points, as he was one of six UM players to score in double figures.
C.J. Wilcher finished with 10 points off the bench, while Lat Mayen added eight points with a pair of 3-pointers.
1. Nebraska completely checked out in the second half
While it was hardly perfect, Nebraska played well enough through the first half to be in prime position to pick up a second Big Ten victory.
Rather than continue that for another 20 minutes, the Huskers looked tired and disinterested coming out of halftime and allowed Maryland to take complete control.
Along with being outscored by 14 in the second half, NU made just 10 field goals to seven turnovers after the break. Those seven giveaways directly led to 12 transition points for the Terrapins.
"We came out slow in the second half…” McGowens said. “I feel like we didn't come in the second half with a lot of energy on the defensive end, and they got rolling."
NU head coach Fred Hoiberg said his team lost the game during the first five minutes of the second half when Maryland shot out to an 11-point lead while NU managed just two made baskets on only three attempts through the first 4:10.
“You’ve got to come out with that fire and energy to try and grab the momentum when it’s a tight game,” Hoiberg said. “I thought we did some really good things offensively in the first half, and when they go on their run that’s when we come down and try to get it all back at once…
“For us, we’ve got to be perfect, especially at the starts of halves.”
2. The refs stole the show
The story of the night was how bad Nebraska played in a matchup that was by far its best remaining chance for a victory this season.
But the way the game was officiated made the loss even harder to stomach for NU fans, or anyone else watching, for that matter.
By the time the final horn sounded, there had been a staggering 46 combined fouls called, and 64 total free throws attempted.
Maryland made 24 of its 33 free throws off 34 fouls called against the Huskers, including 20 attempts off 14 second-half NU fouls. Nebraska actually had the edge at the stripe by shooting 25-for-31, led by Bryce McGowens going 14-of-15.
Hoiberg said his team had to defend without fouling to have a chance against a Maryland squad that was the Big Ten’s best at getting to the line.
The Terrapins came in a perfect 7-0 this season when attempting 23 or more free throws in a game. They shot 33 on Friday night.
The foul and free-throw totals were partly due to both teams' respective styles of play and sloppy defending. But there were also plenty of ticky-tack calls to go along with a technical foul, two monitor reviews, and a flop warning.
It was an ugly game between two bad teams, and the constant whistles and stoppages made it even more painful for those who dared to watch.
3. Maryland dominated at the rim
Not only did Maryland own an 18-point advantage in the paint, but it also dominated when it came to overall efficiency at the rim.
The Terrapins were 11-of-15 on layups with seven dunks per the final box score. On the other end, Nebraska was charted at 8-of-20 on layups, including a missed dunk.
It wasn’t just that Maryland was able to score at a much higher rate at the basket, but also how so many of the Huskers’ missed bunnies led to easy transition opportunities the other way.
Nebraska would miss at the rim, and then Maryland turned it into fastbreak points because NU’s defensive floor balance was thrown off. The Terrapins ended up with a 21-6 edge in fastbreak points as a result.
Donte Scott scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half. Eight of those points came off of two dunks and two layups.