The Nebraska men’s basketball team built a double-digit lead late in the first half, and the Huskers never trailed again in a 69-61 upset of No. 21 Maryland Thursday afternoon in a second-round Big Ten Tournament matchup at the United Center.
Nebraska (18-15) led for more than 33 minutes and trailed for just 2:19, advancing to Friday’s quarterfinal matchup with No. 4 seed and 19th-ranked Wisconsin. Tipoff for Friday’s game is set for approximately 2 p.m. (Central), or 25 minutes after the conclusion of the Michigan State-Ohio State quarterfinal, which begins at 11:30 a.m. (Central).
The Huskers held Maryland to 36 percent shooting and just 18 field goals, marking the Terrapins’ fourth-worst shooting percentage of the season and second-fewest field goals. Nebraska also limited a talented Maryland frontcourt to just 22 points in the paint, and the Huskers recorded eight steals. Offensively, Nebraska got 58 points from its big three of James Palmer Jr., Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaiah Roby. Palmer hit 8-of-13 shots en route to a game-high 24 points, while Watson scored 19 points and Roby added 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks. But the victory was a true team effort, as the Huskers got two points and a game-high nine rebounds from Tanner Borchardt, a career-high five points and four rebounds from Johnny Trueblood and four points, four rebounds and a career-high five steals from Thorir Thorbjarnarson.
Anthony Cowan led Maryland (22-10) with 18 points, while Darryl Morsell chipped in 14 points and Eric Ayala scored 12 points. Nebraska held first-team All-Big Ten pick Bruno Fernando to a season-low three points in 35 minutes.
Nebraska overcame a slow shooting start to put together a strong first half on both ends on its way to a 32-20 halftime lead. After missing its first six shots of the game, the Huskers went 11-of-18 the rest of the half, including hitting seven of their final nine shots. Defensively, Nebraska limited Maryland to 29 percent shooting in the first half and allowed just two field goals over the final nine minutes.
The Huskers went more than four minutes without a basket to open the game, but led 7-5 at the 14-minute mark after Watson scored five straight points. The lead then changed hands four times over the next two minutes before a 5-0 run put Nebraska ahead by four and Maryland responded with four straight points to tie the game at 14. After Maryland pulled even, Nebraska used a 13-2 run over the next six mix minutes to build a double-digit lead. The run began with six straight points and after a Maryland basket, the Huskers rattled off seven consecutive points. Nebraska pushed the lead to as many as 13, before a Watson jumper with 14 seconds left sent the Huskers into the locker room with a 12-point advantage.
Nebraska stretched the lead to 14 when Roby hit a 3-pointer less than a minute into the second half. But the Huskers missed their next 10 shots while going more than five minutes without scoring, and Maryland took advantage with nine straight points to pull within five at 35-30. That would be as close as the Terrapins would get the rest of the game, as Nebraska made 12 of its final 19 shots from that point. Nebraska immediately answered Maryland’s 9-0 run with nine straight points of its own over the next two minutes to push the lead back to 14 with 11:50 remaining.
The Huskers had chances to extend their lead as Maryland had a six-minute stretch without a field goal, but Nebraska could not push the lead above 14. The Terrapins then scored five straight points in 14 seconds to cut the lead to nine, but the Huskers came back with five straight points of their own to build a 51-37 advantage with eight minutes remaining. Nebraska maintained at least a 10-point advantage until Maryland scored five straight points to cut the lead to 58-50 with four minutes to play. The lead was down to six until Trueblood grabbed an offensive rebound to keep a Husker possession alive, and Palmer drilled a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine with 1:29 remaining. Nebraska had another three-point possession its next trip down the court to stretch the lead to 10 and put the game away. The Huskers hit six of their final eight shots to seal the win.