Maryland came into Friday night’s Big Ten tournament quarterfinal against Nebraska with everything to lose and very little to gain. The Terrapins’ mostly dominant performance, though, did as much for their tournament resume as could be hoped for against a sub-150 RPI opponent.
Maryland never trailed in Indianapolis, coming out of the gate hot and fending off a furious Nebraska comeback late to earn a 97-86 victory and advance to the semifinal round to face Michigan State on Saturday.
Those 97 points set a Big Ten tournament record. Jake Layman led the way with 26 points, including 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range. Diamond Stone had 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting and added eight rebounds.
Here are five things you need to know.
1) Jake Layman involved early
An engaged Jake Layman on the offensive end is always a good thing for Maryland. He hit his first four shots from behind the arc. The ensuing confidence was apparent. His offense helped to set the tone.
Even when Nebraska hit shots, Maryland countered. It was the sort of thing that the Terrapins have unfortunately been on the other end of at different points this season.
2) Unbelievably hot from three
Maryland hit its first seven threes from the floor, which spurred their offensive push and helped to fend off any Nebraska gains. The Terrapins mixed in their smaller lineup to spread the floor, plus some creative passing looks that had Robert Carter, Jr. as the team’s main distributor.
Coming into Friday night, Maryland ranked 219th in KenPom’s measure of adjusted tempo. We saw something different from the Terrapins against Nebraska. They pushed the pace after rebounds and didn’t sit in half-court sets, burning the shot clock looking for looks.
3) The best half of the year
Yes, it is Nebraska playing its third game in three nights. Yes, Maryland was unsustainably hot from three. But from the standpoint of energy, effort, and style of play, the first half was Maryland’s most encouraging half of a meaningful game this season.
It was the most points in a half for Maryland all season. It was the most points Nebraska had surrendered in a half all season.
4) Nebraska makes a furious comeback
Maryland’s lead was as much as 25 points by the 15:25 mark of the second half. Five minutes later, it was down to 13 points. Part of it was the Terrapins cooling off, but the other part was some defensive complacency. They gave up more second-chance looks in the second half than the first, which meant defensive possessions that were not closed out.
After the lead was trimmed to 13, the Terrapins responded with an 11-3 run to push the lead to 21 points. Nebraska then turned up the full-court pressure, though, and took advantage of Maryland’s string of ineffective offensive possessions. The Terrapins' lead was cut to as little as six with 1:38 to play.
Turnovers against the press should certainly be a concern going forward, but Maryland ultimately closed the door on Friday.
5) On to Michigan State
Maryland is going to have to defend much better than it did against Nebraska if it wants to beat the Spartans, a team the Terrapins lost to earlier this season.
With Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, and others, expect the defensive intensity to be turned up. Tip is set for approximately 3:30 p.m.