The Huskers came into Saturday’s matchup with the Terrapins following junior forward Rienk Mast’s electric shooting performance at home against Ohio State. Nebraska looked to grab its first road win in Big Ten play against a Maryland team that had struggled thus far in the season with a record of 12-8. The Huskers found out the hard way that no team can be taken for granted at home after an absolutely embarrassing performance.
Saturday’s 73-51 loss to the Terrapins marked the Husker’s fifth straight loss on the road in Big Ten play. Here’s what we learned from Nebraska’s nightmare in Maryland:
The Huskers’ road struggles continue
Things looked set to turn around for the Huskers on the road early Saturday. Junior guard Brice Williams set the tone early on defense forcing a tie-up. Nebraska hit two early 3-pointers while simultaneously holding the Terrapins to 0-of-4 from the field to start.
The Huskers couldn’t miss early, knocking down four of their first five 3-point shots to take a 10-point lead. Nebraska’s early run was the sole bright spot for the Huskers on Saturday as Maryland would answer with a 10-2 run which spring boarded it to the blowout victory.
Nebraska remains winless on the road in the Big Ten which is frustrating but may be indicative of a larger trend within the conference. Home teams have been dominant this season within the Big Ten as Purdue is the only team that has a winning record on the road at 3-2 for the season.
Part of the problem for the Huskers may be that they do not have a bonafide best player. While senior guard Keisei Tominaga has become an immensely popular fan favorite, he has struggled at times as of late. No one has emerged as the number one player, which can be a good thing as it makes Nebraska harder to scout. However, it also can lead to struggles on the road.
Communication and togetherness are two things that the Huskers have struggled with in road games this year. Having a player take ownership of the team — both vocally and with their play — in road games is normally the job of the team’s best player and leader. Nebraska needs to find that moving forward.
While the Huskers are not alone in their road struggles, it may cost them come March when you add their road woes to their strength of schedule. Nebraska could be in danger of missing the tournament if it can’t find a way to win away from home.
The Huskers’ weakness exposed
Maryland may have provided the rest of the Big Ten with a blueprint to beat Nebraska as its pressure held a Husker offense that normally averages just under 80 points per game to a mere 51 points on Saturday.
The Terrapins press bothered Nebraska all day forcing 18 Husker turnovers. This gave a struggling Maryland offense the chance to get in a rhythm as they ended the game shooting 21 more shots than Nebraska. The Huskers looked sped up and uncomfortable throughout the game especially early as they had nine turnovers by the time they had nine made shots. The Terrapins press is used to slow opponents down more than turn them over; just the appearance of pressure made Nebraska dribble and pass into turnovers.
One of the added benefits of the press is that it tires teams out which allows for easier scoring opportunities and rebounds. This was apparent when watching the Huskers as the effort and intensity they started the game with were missing in action at the end of the first half. The rebounding battle is where this showed up the most as the Terrapins had more offensive rebounds than Nebraska had defensive rebounds at a point late in the second half.
The good thing is that not many teams in the conference have the personnel to press the Huskers for a full game. That could also be an issue however if they run into Maryland early in the conference tournament or into a pressing team in March. Nebraska won’t have as many opportunities to work on it in real game situations.
The Huskers are consistently inconsistent
The Huskers at times this year have looked like world-beaters, however, there have been games where they have looked like the same old Nebraska.
In games like Purdue, the Huskers move the ball and get into their offense while out-scheming teams on the defensive end. When Nebraska is playing well it is loud on defense communicating, point switching and rebounding despite their size limitations.
In games like Saturday’s and against Creighton, the Huskers look uninterested at times, lacking effort and discipline when it comes to boxing out and running their offense as they often fall into isolation play late in the shot clock.
The real identity of this team is likely somewhere in the middle, which will make for a nerve-racking rest of the season as they look to make their first NCAA tournament since the 2013-2014 season.
If Nebraska can make the tournament their success will largely depend on its matchup. If the Huskers can draw weaker shooting teams they will be capable of upsetting their way to a couple of wins. However, a couple of wins is starting to look like this team’s ceiling as their rebounding and inconsistency on the defensive end will be hurdles in a tournament-like environment.
It doesn’t get any easier going forward Nebraska is currently projected to make the tournament play, but four of its next six games are on the road. The Huskers will be at home for their next game, however, as they host a tough No. 13-ranked Wisconsin team on Thursday, Feb. 1.