Late second-half surge propels Maryland men’s basketball to win over Nebraska

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Off an Eric Ayala missed three, Aaron Wiggins grabbed the rebound in between the restricted area and the free-throw line. Wiggins then perfectly executed a behind-the-back dribble, which landed him near the left side of the basket. 

The junior guard then banked his interior shot attempt off the glass, which extended Maryland’s (12-10, 6-9 B1G) lead to 49-44 with 6:28 remaining in the second half and helped guide them to a 64-50 victory. That basket was one of Wiggins’ five field goals and 12 points in the final 7:14 after Nebraska (5-13, 1-10 B1G) tied the score at 44.

Wiggins finished with a team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds, displaying his craftiness and assertiveness offensively. He also converted four three-point plays, efficient at both drawing contact and capitalizing on his layup attempts.

“Shots have started to fall, continuing to stay aggressive, seeing the ball go in just increases the confidence,” Wiggins said of his strong play. “Just feeling comfortable out there, playing well.”

In addition to Wiggins, Jairus Hamilton posted a season-high 15 points, 11 of which came in the first half. Hamilton also knocked down three triples, spotting up with confidence from behind the arc giving the Terps some much needed baskets in the first half.

“I was just feeling really confident, I knew this was a game where I had a lot of opportunities coming in so I just really just wanted to take advantage,” Hamilton said. “Just wanted to stay confident, stay ready for anytime they need me and come in and produce whenever I’m needed.”

The 20-6 run to close out the game helped make up for a season-high 17 turnovers from the Terps. Those turnovers interrupted Maryland’s flow offensively throughout and allowed Nebraska to stay in it for a majority of the action. Ten of those mistakes occurred in the opening 20 minutes, five of which transpired when the Cornhuskers transitioned to a 2-3 zone defense.

“Yeah it’s frustrating, I don’t know what played a role in it,” head coach Mark Turgeon said of the turnovers. “We talked about it at halftime, it’s too many [turnovers]. We just got to be better with the ball than we were tonight.”

The story of the first half was porous perimeter defense, as both teams combined to make 13 three-pointers. Teddy Allen, Lat Mayen and Dalano Banton each knocked down two triples for the Cornhuskers in the opening 20 minutes. Maryland’s defense didn’t do a strong enough job of closing out onto shooters, which allowed Nebraska to find success from deep.

Five different Terps converted from deep including senior guard Darryl Morsell. He punctuated the first half with an improbable buzzer-beater from half-court off the window, allowing the Terps to enter the break with a 32-28 lead.

To start the second half neither team was able to find a groove offensively as the Terps missed their first three shots and the Cornhuskers missed their first four. However, Donta Scott ended the scoring drought for both teams with a three that was promptly answered by Trey McGowens.

After briefly leading by seven earlier in the period, Maryland was unable to gain a sizable lead largely due to its turnover woes rearing their ugly head once again. Six Maryland giveaways in a 7:39 stretch allowed Nebraska to slowly chip away at the lead and tie the score at 44 with 7:14 remaining.

However, from that moment, Wiggins and the Terps responded. Wiggins started the run by drilling a tough jumper while absorbing contact from Thorir Thorbjarnarson, plus the aforementioned second-chance layup. Morsell continued the stretch by knocking down a pair of free-throws in the one-and-one situation that extended Maryland’s lead to five.

“I think we changed some things offensively in what we were doing, we were able to get downhill,” Turgeon said. “We took advantage of a couple matchups, guys did a good job of recognizing it. We cut better, we got our spacing better and that helped.”

As Nebraska still continued to struggle with contested perimeter attempts, the Terps’ offense found its groove with a pair of baskets from Wiggins, one from Ayala and a free-throw from Scott that ballooned the lead to 12 with 3:48 remaining.

Ayala’s basket was another example of Maryland taking advantage of a mismatch, as the junior guard used a hesitation dribble to create separation and drive into the lane for a finish. 

“We just knew that we had to really lock in defensively and just get multiple stops so we could secure this W,” Hamilton said. “We just wanted to make sure that we took care of business tonight.”

The Terps won’t have long to recuperate as they host the Cornhuskers once again tomorrow night at 7 p.m.