Playing its seventh game in 12 days, including the second in as many days on the road at Maryland, Nebraska’s tank finally ran empty on Wednesday night.
A decent start quickly faded after the first few minutes for the Huskers, as they could not keep up with a red-hot Terrapin squad en route to a 79-71 defeat that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might indicate.
Eric Ayala, who posted a career-high 24 points, and Aaron Wiggins (22) had huge nights for Maryland, combining for 46 points on 17-of-33 shooting and eight total 3-pointers.
Teddy Allen led NU with a game-high 25 points, with 15 coming in the second half, but the Huskers fell behind by as many as 21 and never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
Nebraska’s offense was operating at a much high level in the first half than it did 20-or-so hours earlier, shooting 40 percent from the field and 5-of-12 from behind the arc.
But that was barely enough to keep up with a Maryland team that was hitting on all cylinders. The Terrapins shot 48.4 percent overall and were 7-for-14 from behind the arc in the first half, with Eric Ayala (17) and Aaron Wiggins (13) accounting for 30 points and five 3-pointers.
Ayala’s five straight points to close the half gave Maryland its largest lead yet at 40-33 going into the break. Nebraska scored just three points over the final 4:04 of the first half, while Ayala and Wiggins scored UM’s last 17.
The Terps (13-10, 7-9) took the game over from there, going on a 12-0 run after NU had pulled within four to eventually lead by as many as 21 before all was said and done.
Lat Mayen finished in double figures again with 13 points, while Dalano Banton had 11 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Banton also tied his career-high with three made 3-pointers.
Nebraska fell to 5-13 overall and 1-11 in Big Ten play with the loss, but it will get a two-day break before returning to action again on Saturday at home vs. Purdue. That will be the Huskers’ longest time off since returning from their month-long COVID-19 pause on Feb. 6.
1. Nebraska’s perimeter defense disappeared
Coming into its double-header at Maryland, Nebraska had been the best team in the Big Ten in 3-point defense, holding opponents to just over 30 percent from behind the arc.
Whatever the Huskers had been doing so well completely disappeared on Wednesday night.
The Terrapins, which are shooting 35.1 percent from three on the season, came out firing from the opening tip, and NU did not respond all game.
Not only was Maryland knock down nearly 40 percent of its 3-point attempts, but the majority of them came on wide-open uncontested looks due to lack of perimeter defensive rotation.
Even worse, the Terps had numerous made 3-pointers off of offensive rebounds.
The drop-off was almost certainly due to fatigue, but it likely didn’t help matters that Maryland seemingly could not miss.
2. Stevenson was a bright spot
On another night where there weren’t many positives to take away for Nebraska, the effort put forth by Stevenson was one of the few highlights.
His game isn’t the prettiest, but the junior guard will always play at 100 percent, and that was the case again on Wednesday night.
Stevenson finished the loss with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting to go along with two rebounds and a steal. He also provided NU’s highlight of the night with a monster slam dunk in traffic in the second half.
For a Husker team that is clearly gassed at this point, having a guy like Stevenson bring that type of energy is such a help.
3. The Huskers played small ball once again
Neither Nebraska nor Maryland boast much size and post depth compared to the rest of their Big Ten counterparts, and the lineups used in the past two games certainly reflected that.
After NU’s frontcourt players saw a combined 21 minutes in the first meeting on Tuesday night, Derrick Walker, Eduardo Andre, and Yvan Ouedraogo played a total of 21 in Wednesday’s rematch.
Walker, who was limited to eight minutes in the first game due to an illness, picked up two early fouls and sat for the final eight minutes of the first half. He ended up with two points on just one shot attempt, no rebounds, and four fouls in 17 minutes of work.
Andre saw five minutes in the first half and did not play after halftime, finishing with one rebound. Ouedraogo played all seven of his minutes in the second half and had one rebound and an assist.
The main reason why NU’s frontcourt was hardly a factor was due to matchups against Maryland’s guard-heavy personnel. From now on, however, those three need to produce much more.