The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maryland men get back to .500 in the Big Ten by dismantling Nebraska

Maryland 82, Nebraska 63

Nebraska guard Denim Dawson fouls Maryland guard Jahmir Young during Saturday's matchup in College Park. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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Earlier in the week, Maryland capitalized as it faced a Wisconsin team that was playing its second game in three days, and Saturday the Terrapins took on Nebraska, which long has languished near the bottom of the Big Ten and is navigating injury trouble. The Terps did what they needed to do, controlling the second half in each outing and cruising to consecutive conference wins for the first time this season.

This time, Maryland dismantled the Cornhuskers for an 82-63 victory at Xfinity Center. This two-game burst, beginning with Wednesday’s 73-55 rout of Wisconsin, is the first time Maryland has won back-to-back conference games by at least 15 points since January 2010, when Gary Williams led the program.

In their strong showing Saturday, the Terps (14-7, 5-5) continued to bounce back from a 1-3 start to Big Ten play. The schedule has softened a bit, and Maryland will complete a three-game homestand Tuesday against Indiana with a chance to further solidify its spot in the NCAA tournament picture.

Maryland’s offense, particularly in the first half, showed promise with its ball movement and improved shooting from beyond the arc (5 for 10 before halftime). Point guard Jahmir Young has established himself as the Terps’ leader, and he delivered again with a team-high 18 points to go with seven assists and six steals. No Maryland player has had that many steals in a game since Justin Jackson in 2017.

“He’s a stud,” Nebraska Coach Fred Hoiberg said of Young, a transfer from Charlotte. “He’s had an unbelievable impact on our league. ... He just does a little bit of everything.”

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The Terps had a 40-30 halftime lead, and the Cornhuskers (10-12, 3-8) whittled their deficit to eight points several times in the second half. But in the final 10 minutes, Maryland took complete control to hand Nebraska its fifth loss in six games.

Five Terps scored in double figures — including guard Don Carey (16 points), who benefited from perfect shooting from beyond the arc (4 for 4), and forward Patrick Emilien (10 points), a valuable option for Coach Kevin Willard off the bench.

“I think 100 percent I would say this was one of our [offensive] highlights of the year,” Emilien said. “Just moving the ball, everybody getting touches, everybody feeling like they’re contributing equally, and just knowing where to go.”

Here’s what else to know about Maryland’s win:

Emilien’s presence

Emilien, a reserve forward whom Willard has described as an “unheralded MVP,” had a strong showing in the first half in relief of starter Julian Reese. Emilien has dealt with an ankle injury that kept him out of two games this month, but he played 13 minutes in the first half against Nebraska after Reese committed two early fouls.

Emilien proved to be a capable replacement, recording eight points, four rebounds, a block and a steal in the opening 20 minutes.

“He just gives us a different dynamic in the fact that we can switch pick and rolls,” Willard said. “He can slide over to the power forward. He can slide over to the center. He was a big key of why we got off to such a really good start.”

After Reese picked up his third foul just after halftime, Willard turned to Emilien again. He finished with 10 points on 3-for-4 shooting and seven rebounds in 25 minutes; Reese played just 14 minutes and had eight points and five rebounds.

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Maryland’s edge

Nebraska shot 53.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range (6 for 14), both of which outpaced Maryland, but the Terps’ ability to get to the free throw line and score off turnovers doomed the Cornhuskers. Maryland had 20 points off 15 Nebraska turnovers, and the Terps scored 22 points in transition.

“You shouldn’t get your ass kicked like that when you have those types of percentages and that kind of efficiency,” Hoiberg said. “But it was the turnovers and putting them on the free throw line.”

Maryland was 24 for 26 from the line, including perfect clips by Young (9 for 9) and Hakim Hart (7 for 7 on his way to 11 points). Nebraska made 9 of 15 free throws.

Maryland showed additional promise with 16 assists, which tied a season high, and committed just 10 turnovers.

“The assists are great, but the turnovers are even bigger,” Willard said after the Terps posted their fourth straight game with more assists than turnovers.

Early threes

The Terps have endured prolonged shooting struggles from the perimeter, but they’ve now had back-to-back games with some success from three. Maryland made 6 of 14 (42.9 percent) against Wisconsin on Wednesday, then went 5 for 10 in the first half against Nebraska. (The Terps were 3 for 13 in the second half, dropping their clip to 34.8 percent for the game.)

Carey, a transfer from Georgetown, highlighted Saturday’s shooting performance by making all of his attempts from three-point range. He has weathered extended slumps, but he arrived at Maryland with nearly 200 made three-pointers in four seasons of college basketball. Now he’s showing signs that he might be returning to that form.

“It was a matter of time,” Willard said. “He didn’t get too many easy ones. He made some tough ones, which was great to see, because that’s what he’s capable of doing. And if he starts doing that, then I think it opens up everything else for everybody.”