Short-handed Nebraska continued its surprising run in the Big Ten Conference tournament Thursday with a 69-61 upset of No. 21 Maryland at the United Center in Chicago.
The 13th-seeded Cornhuskers (18-15), down to six scholarship players because of injury and suspension, won for the second straight day, holding off the fifth-seeded Terrapins. Maryland (22-10) failed to win a game at the Big Ten tournament for the third straight year.
The Terrapins trailed by as many as 14 points early in the second half when Isaiah Roby hit a 3-pointer to make it 35-21. But a 9-0 Maryland run fueled by two Darryl Morsell dunks, the second at 14:54, cut the deficit to 35-30.
The Cornhuskers, playing without Amir Harris (knee) and Nana Akenten (suspended) answered with a 9-0 run of their own. When Glynn Watson Jr. hit a 3-pointer at 12:02, the lead was back to 44-30. The Terrapins closed back to within 61-55 at 2:26 on two Anthony Cowan free throws, but James Palmer drilled a second-chance 3-pointer at 1:33 to help stave off the Terrapins.
Palmer had 24 points to lead all scorers, Watson chipped in 19 and Roby added 15. Cowan scored Maryland’s last 11 points and finished with 18. Morsell had 14 points for Maryland, which shot just 36 percent (18 of 50).
Nebraska built a 32-20 halftime lead thanks to a sticky defense that limited Maryland to 29.2-percent shooting (7 of 24) and forced seven turnovers. Palmer turned it up offensively with 14 points, hitting his first four field-goal attempts.
The Cornhuskers held Maryland’s top two scorers, Cowan and Bruno Fernando to just four first-half points and only four combined shots. Nebraska, which beat 12th-seeded Rutgers 68-61 Wednesday, played a lot of 2-3 zone. Fernando finished with just three points, none in the second half, as the smaller Cornhuskers double-teamed him and consistently forced the ball out of the post. He was 1 of 4 from the field, as Tanner Borchardt was stellar on defense and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds despite battling foul trouble.
Maryland had beaten the Cornhuskers twice during the regular season, 74-72 in early January on Jalen Smith’s basket with 3.8 seconds left, and 60-45 in February at Nebraska when the Huskers hit just 21 percent from the field, a 15-year low. Palmer had just 12 points on 2-of-13 shooting in that game.
The Cornhuskers advance to the quarterfinals Friday to meet fourth-seeded Wisconsin at approximately 2 p.m. CST.
—Field Level Media