INDIANAPOLIS — Maryland has had its ups and downs this season, but boy did the Terps look like the team everyone expected them to be on Friday night. For the most part, anyway.
A monster of a first half carried Maryland to a 97-86 victory over Nebraska, sending the Terps to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, where they’ll meet Michigan State on Saturday. That doesn’t mean the game was without its bad stretches for the Terps, what with the Huskers shrinking a 25-point lead all the way down to six in the game’s final minute before free throws finally put it away.
Maryland was absolutely scorching in the first half, shooting a jaw-dropping 71.4 percent from the field and connecting on nine of its 10 3-point attempts. Jake Layman alone hit four 3s in the first five and a half minutes of the game, the scintillating start to his 17-point period, which featured the senior going 6-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 from 3-point range.
All in all, it was a season-high 54-point first half for the Terps, who looked like the Golden State Warriors at times against a group of Huskers playing for the third time in three days. Melo Trimble dazzled with no-look passes and highlight-reel weaves to the rim. Diamond Stone had three thunderous dunks. And six different Maryland players scored, all netting at least five points.
The second half was more of the same, for the most part. Layman and Trimble kept hitting 3s, and Stone kept dunking. Not even a 17-5 charge by the Huskers in the middle of the period could do much damage. It whittled a 25-point lead down to 13, but the Terps had their edge back over 20 in no time. But then came that late Nebraska surge, the Huskers using a 19-4 run to take a 21-point lead down to six over a six-and-a-half-minute stretch during which Maryland hit just two shots. Three straight 3-pointers by Andrew White III brought the Huskers within six. Only five Maryland free throws in the final minute prevented what would have been a ridiculous collapse.
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The Terps got their win, though, scoring a Big Ten Tournament record 97 points in the process. Maryland shot 60.3 percent from the field on the game, going 13-for-22 from 3-point range and coming one shy of the Big Ten Tournament record set just two days ago by Illinois. Maryland out-rebounded Nebraska, 36-28, and had a 44-34 edge in points in the paint.
Layman led the way for the Terps with 26 points. He was 8-for-13 from the field and 6-for-9 from 3-point range. Stone scored 23 points on 11-for-15 shooting, also grabbing eight rebounds. Trimble had 16 points, going 4-for-8 from 3. Robert Carter Jr. added 13 points, and Rasheed Sulaimon had 10.
White led Nebraska with 25 points, hitting five 3s. Shavon Shields had 19 points, with Tai Webster adding 17 points. Glynn Watson Jr. scored 10 points for the Huskers.
The Terps haven’t always looked like the team that was picked as one of the preseason favorites to win the national championship — the late-in-game stretch showed that. But certainly the incredible talent has always been there, and in the first half, we saw what can happen when this team fires on all cylinders. It should be an exciting semifinal with the Spartans, who rolled past Ohio State on Friday night.
Nebraska had a fun run in the Big Ten Tournament, including an upset of Wisconsin on Thursday, but the Huskers’ season is likely over following Friday’s loss.