COLLEGE PARK, Md - There are no off nights in the Big Ten. From top to bottom they are one of the best conferences in the country and are likely to send a record number of teams to the NCAA Tournament in March.
However, when the conference leaders host one of the basement dwellers, who are not anticipated to even be in postseason contention, it should be a straightforward night for the home team.
Anyone who has watched Maryland basketball over the years knows that no win is straightforward. That was the case again for the Maryland Terrapins on Tuesday night when they hosted the seven-win Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Maryland escaped with a 72-70 win, but not without Nebraska getting the chance to win the game in the final seconds. Had it not been for a Jalen Smith block with five seconds remaining, Maryland would have had one of the worst home losses among the top tier of teams in the Big Ten.
Maryland, admittedly, overlooked Nebraska. The same Nebraska team that had lost to Southern Utah and North Dakota during nonconference play. The same team that entered the night on an eight-game losing streak. The same team that only mustered two wins in the Big Ten.
“We didn’t respect our opponent enough,” Mark Turgeon said postgame. “I’ll take the blame. I didn’t have us ready. I was a little under the weather. I wasn’t at practice on Sunday, I haven’t missed practice in 15 years. Felt like crap the whole game, I didn’t do my job.”
Throughout the night, Maryland stumbled and was unable to unleash the full compliments of their offense. To no one’s surprise, a slow start on the offensive end contributed to their struggles. Still, it should have been a game that Maryland could have been on cruise control, got their stars some rest and headed to the locker room early. Even with Nebraska starting an abysmal 3-for-20 from behind the arc, Maryland did not do enough to pad a lead in the first half.
In true-Maryland fashion, it was a wire-to-wire game where all the starters played 30+ minutes. However, in a game that the Terps typically would have lost in the past, or even at the beginning of the season, the team held their own to come away with a win.
“Every win in the Big Ten is crucial, everybody knows that in the NCAA anybody can be beat at any point. So just knowing that we came away with this win, one that a long time down the road is going to be helpful for us,” Smith said.
A 14-point lead is the largest gap Maryland could build. Throughout the night, Nebraska kept the game within arms distance with Maryland giving them opportunity after opportunity to stay in the game. Maryland had 17 turnovers and a 7-for-23 shooting performance from deep.
Late in the second half, the Cornhuskers finally broke through with a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to two. Showing that everything was going wrong, Maryland missed two free throws on the front-end of one-and-one attempts to ice the game. Still, when everything was going wrong, Maryland got the win.
“If you’re gonna have a flat game, have it at home against a team that’s won two [conference games] and figure out how to win it, and you know, we got lucky,” Turgeon said. “My guys, when they have to get it done, they get it done.”
Flat games happen, even for the No. 9 Terrapins. Perhaps the Terps got their sights on Saturday night in a huge clash in East Lansing with Michigan State. But when you’re a good team, sometimes you happen to get lucky. They’re going to need a little of both if they are going to make a run at the Big Ten title.
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