February might be a little late for statement wins, but the Maryland Terrapins had one of their best games of the season against the Northwestern Wildcats Feb. 10 .
None of the coaches or players would describe last Saturday as a season-defining game, but they did agree that it was one of the most complete games the team has played this year. To make matters better, it came against a team that had won four of its last five games before Maryland cruised to a 16-point victory.
If the win built any confidence within the team, it’s going to need it against the Nebraska Cornhuskers Tuesday night, because the Cornhuskers have been one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten for the past month.
Nebraska (19-8, 10-4) has taken off since its overtime loss to Penn State on Jan. 12, and it has since won seven of its last eight games, including a 20-point win over No. 23 Michigan. While Maryland slumped to ninth in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers have risen to fourth in the conference behind Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue.
Since starting conference play on Dec. 3, Nebraska has dominated conference opponents. It hasn’t fared well against the top three teams in the Big Ten, but it averages 70.6 points per game in the conference and has five double-digit wins.
Unlike Maryland, which has two players — sophomores Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan — to operate its offense, Nebraska has a more even roster, thanks to their depth. Nebraska has junior guards James Palmer Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr., as well as junior forward Isaac Copeland, as their primary scorers, but it also has three other players who average 20-plus minutes per game.
Depth – particularly Maryland’s lack of it – has been a problem for the team since losing sophomore Justin Jackson and redshirt junior Ivan Bender to season-ending injuries. That lack of depth has been surfaced against better opponents, with the team unable to keep up with top-tier competition for a full 40 minutes..
But Maryland seemed to figure out its new four-guard rotation against Northwestern, and it will have to rely on that for the rest of the season. As senior Jared Nickens pointed out before the game against the Wildcats, the team is at its best when it goes small.
The game against the Cornhuskers will depend upon the Terps’ confidence, which is running high after its first double-digit win since Minnesota. Maryland has played well at home, but it hasn’t performed on the road, where it is 1-7.
Much of Maryland’s problems on the road stem from the team’s inability to close games in the final minutes. That problem goes back as early as the team’s game against Syracuse when it turned over the ball twice in the final 30 seconds.
It might too late for Maryland to put together an NCAA Tournament-worthy resume but winning against a hot team on the road would put the Terps back in the discussion..
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. in Pinnacle Bank Arena.
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