In its first game of 2019, Maryland (11-3, 2-1) was able to get their first win over a ranked opponent since 2016 by defeating No. 24 Nebraska (11-3, 1-2), 74-72, behind Jalen Smith’s game-winning floater with 3.8 seconds left.
“I’m just glad we won,” Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We still made the same mistakes. Three turnovers and then we got into a bit of a panic and we overcame that.”
In a season where Maryland hasn’t seen much success scoring the ball in the opening minutes, tonight was much different for the Terps.
The Terps jumped out to an early 8-6 start over Nebraska after Eric Ayala and Jalen Smith made three-pointers, but Nebraska would then take the lead until late into the half.
The Cornhuskers never garnered a lead larger than four, but they were able to hold the Terps behind them until an Anthony Cowan made jumper capped off a 9-0 Maryland run and gave them a 30-29 with 4:10 left in the first half.
After that run things started to slow down for Maryland. During the final 4:10 of the half the Terps failed to score a field goal, while Nebraska went on a 10-2 run of their own to give them a 39-35 lead going into the break.
Senior guard and Upper Marlboro native James Palmer led the way for Nebraska all night. Palmer, their leading scorer, led Nebraska in points, 26, rebounds, seven, and assists, four, against Maryland.
This is after Palmer led the Cornhuskers with 26 points in their 70-66 victory over Maryland last season.
The Terps scoring woes followed them into the start of the second half. After scoring the first four points of the half, Maryland failed to score for over five minutes, allowing Nebraska’s lead to grow to 49-41.
Once Maryland finally got their scoring back on track, so was their defense. After going scoreless for five minutes, Nebraska was then held scoreless four minutes as well. This, along with a 6-0 Maryland run, allowed Maryland to tie up the game at 49-49 with 11:59 left in the game after a Jalen Smith three-pointer.
Both teams would then trade baskets back and forth for the next five minutes to eventually make it 60-60 at the under-eight media timeout.
Again, neither team was able to garner a huge lead during this time. Maryland had a 70-67 lead with 2:40 left after Jalen Smith converted an and-one, but Nebraska would then take a 71-70 lead after a Palmer fast break dunk.
With 45 seconds left Maryland called timeout to draw something up. After the timeout, a Cowan missed-three led to a Jalen Smith putback layup to give the Terps a 72-71 lead with 28.4 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Fernando would foul Palmer, but he would only convert one of the two free throws to make it 72-72.
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon would then let his team play out the final 22 seconds without calling timeout.
Jalen Smith would then drive his way into the paint and put up the game-winning floater up above two Nebraska defenders to give Maryland a 74-72 lead.
“He wasn’t very good early,” Turgeon said. “I was chewing on him and the assistants were chewing on him and then he responded. We need Stix to play like that, if he plays like that we’re a much better team.”
Smith ended the day with 15 points, including two made three pointers. Cowan led the scoring for the Terps tonight, ending with 19 points, along with a team-high four assists.
Fernando ended his day with his fifth double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 17 rebounds for the Terps. Nebraska attempted to double Fernando all game, but his strength and agility allowed him to get past those double teams.
“He wants to win and he wants to win badly and it shows,” Turgeon said.
Those were the only three Terps in double figures, but the huge explosion from the Terps top three players was enough to lead them past Nebraska.
Freshmen Ayala and Aaron Wiggins were both celebrating birthdays on Wednesday and they both also made big shots for the Terps tonight too, with Ayala adding seven points and Wiggins adding eight.
Maryland now has to travel to Piscataway, New Jersey to take on Rutgers (7-5, 0-2) this Saturday at 2 p.m.
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