Maryland soars over Nebraska in 82-63 win

As Hakim Hart soared to the rim and completed a crafty and-one layup in transition which pushed Maryland’s second half lead to 21, it further proved the kind of performance that it will take for the Terps to be successful in the Big Ten.

“I think the biggest thing offensively is we’re just taking better care of the basketball,” Maryland head coach Kevin Willard said after the 82-63 win over Nebraska. “The assists are great but the [lack of] turnovers are even bigger. I think Hakim the last two games has played with a very steady pace. I just think the way he is playing, passing the basketball, has made a big difference.”

Hart finished with 11 points, but has made his impact the past two games by creating shots for his teammates, as he follows his career-high eight assist performance from Wednesday with five assists just three days later.

The Terps weathered an early Nebraska storm, using timely three-point shooting and defensive tenacity to top the Cornhuskers on Saturday in College Park in their second of three consecutive home games. FiveĀ  Maryland players finished in double figures as the Terps tied their season high of 16 assists in the balanced scoring attack.

With their second consecutive win of 18 points or more, the Terps have now won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time this season.

After Nebraska got off to a hot start from the field and took an early 13-8 lead, a one-handed slam from Julian Reese woke the Xfinity Center crowd up and sparked a 10-0 run. During this run, Maryland tightened its screws defensively and became aggressive on the interior and in passing lanes.

This defensive effort was largely in thanks to Patrick Emilien, who made an impact immediately upon checking into the game. With Reese in foul trouble, Emilien played a crucial role in the first half turnaround that saw Maryland feed on transition scoring due to their defense. Emilien went 4-4 from the field and picked up a blocked shot and steal in his 13 minutes of action.

“He just gives us a different dynamic,” Willard said of Emilien. “He can switch pick-and-rolls, he can slide over to the power forward, slide over to the center. He is a big key to why we got off to such a really good start.”

Emilien’s outburst was a revelation for Maryland, as the lingering ankle injury that has sidelined him in previous games has halted any real production from the backup spot of Reese. He finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

With their ability to run and gun in transition, the Terps lived at the free throw line, going 24-26, including 13-13 in the first half.

Nebraska was able to hang around in the first half thanks to the performances of Derrick Walker and Sam Hoiberg.

Walker – who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds – did his work early and often in the paint, going 6-8 from the field in the first half. His size on the interior forced Willard to switch to a zone and Nebraska to rely on its three-point shooting.

Hoiberg – the son of Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg – had only scored 13 points all season entering Saturday’s game. His play showed otherwise, as he filled up the scoring box with 11 points on 3-3 shooting from three-point range in the first half and was the Cornhuskers’ only real offensive threat from the perimeter. He finished with 15 points.

In what was another stellar performance from Jahmir Young, he showcased his continuing growth as a point guard in the Big Ten through his decision making. He matched his season high with seven assists and was a menace in the passing lanes, snagging six steals.

“I don’t think he realizes how good of a defender he can be,” Willard said of Young. “I think he’s starting to get it, just like he got it offensively, but at his size and quickness he does a great job of reading where the basketball is going.”

“I think he’s a heck of a defender,” he added. The Terps scored 20 points off 15 Nebraska turnovers.

Young’s defensive engagement helped Maryland surge ahead and never look back as their lead neared 20. He finished with 18 points, aided by his perfect 9-9 from the free throw line.

The win coincides with another stellar three-point shooting performance, as the Terps went 8-23 from beyond the arc after shooting nearly 43% on Wednesday against Wisconsin.

Don Carey – who added 16 points of his own – helped these numbers by going 4-4 from three, a good sign for Willard as Big Ten play continues.

“It was only a matter of time,” Willard said. “He has never stopped putting in the work. He didn’t get too many easy ones, he made some tough ones, which was great to see because that’s what he’s capable of doing.”

“[When] he starts doing that, it just opens up everything else for everybody,” he added.

Maryland wraps up its three-game homestand with a matchup against Indiana on Tuesday night.

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