College Park, MD (SportsNetwork.com) - With precious little time to make their move in the race for the Big Ten Conference crown, the 16th-ranked Maryland Terrapins will put their best foot forward as they welcome the Nebraska Cornhuskers to XFINITY Center on Thursday night.
Nebraska has fallen on hard times over the last couple of months, as the team sits just a game over .500 at 13-12, but well below the mark in conference play at just 5-8. The latter figure has the team just three losses away from the Big Ten basement, which is currently occupied by league newcomer Rutgers. The Cornhuskers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and they've come out on the short end in five of their last six overall. A 66-54 setback at Purdue last Sunday was their most recent disappointment, and they are in search of only their second win on the road this season, with this being their 10th opportunity.
Maryland is also new to the Big Ten this season, but the Terrapins have performed exceptionally well by going 21-5, which includes a 9-4 league ledger. Currently tied with both Michigan State and Purdue for second place in the conference, a lot of things need to go their way for the Terps to wrestle away the top spot from fifth-ranked Wisconsin. Maryland has won its last two games, the most recent being a 76-73 verdict at Penn State last Saturday, and the team is seeking its 16th home win of the season tonight.
This bout marks the first meeting between these two schools in men's basketball.
Shavon Shields poured in 19 points and was joined in double figures by Terran Petteway (13) and Walter Pickford (12), but those efforts weren't enough to push Nebraska past Purdue last weekend. The Cornhuskers made good on only 40 percent of their field goal attempts, and had an especially tough time from distance, hitting just 3-of-16 3-point tries. They were also beaten badly on the boards, 44-29. They did a decent job of limiting open looks at the basket by the Boilermakers, who shot just 38.5 percent from the floor. An 18-7 deficit at the free-throw line also played a role in the negative outcome for Nebraska.
Despite having two of the Big Ten's top-seven scorers in Petteway (18.7 ppg) and Shields (15.8 ppg), the Huskers are putting up just 62.2 ppg (13th in the Big Ten) as they really struggle from 3-point range (league-low .288). Fortunately, the team's defensive effort has resulted in opponents scoring just 61.3 ppg, which ranks Nebraska third in the conference. The Cornhuskers also rank third in both field goal percentage defense (.391) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.317), but they routinely lose the rebounding battle (-2.7) and they are among the worst teams in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.8).
Dez Wells scored 22 points and Melo Trimble hit for 20, and both efforts were needed as Maryland survived a scare at Penn State last weekend. Jake Layman chipped in 13 points for the Terps, who shot 48.9 percent from the floor, knocking down 9-of-19 3-point launches along the way. They also went 21-of-26 at the foul line, compared to 14-of-19 by the Nittany Lions, who also nailed nine treys while narrowly winning the rebounding battle, 32-31. Maryland outscored Penn State in the paint, 24-18, and needed a 50 percent shooting effort during the final frame to overcome a 34-33 halftime deficit.
The big three of Trimble (15.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg), Wells (14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Layman (13.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) have been Maryland's most productive players this season, helping the team generate 70.8 ppg. Defensively, the Terps are permitting 64.3 ppg, with foes shooting just 40.2 percent from the floor and 32.1 percent from beyond the arc. UM is one of the top free-throw shooting teams in the Big Ten, converting 74.3 percent of its attempts, and while the squad is +2.3 in rebounding margin, it is -0.7 in turnover differential.