What We Learned After Nebraska

No. 10 Maryland defeated Nebraska, 64-61, March 8 in Lincoln, Neb. Here are five observations to take away from the Terps’ final regular season game.

No. 10 Maryland defeated Nebraska, 64-61, March 8 in Lincoln, Neb. Here are five observations to take away from the Terps’ final regular season game.

Dez Does It All

Maryland senior wing Dez Wells has been red hot down the stretch, and March 8 in Lincoln, Neb., he had arguably his finest all-around performance of the season. Not only did Wells score, not only did he facilitate, not only did he defend and rebound, but he did it when it counted most.

Every time Nebraska started to gain momentum, either inching ahead or surging back, the Terps’ senior threw a wrench into things.

With the Terps trailing by six, 38-32, and the Huskers’ fans about to erupt, Wells ripped down an offensive rebound off a missed Evan Smotrycz 3-pointer and converted a layup. Then, following a Nebraska bucket, Wells answered with a tenacious, crowd-silencing throw-down to spur UMD on a mini-run.

Later during the half, with Maryland down by five, Wells grabbed another offensive rebound in traffic, the sequence eventually leading to a Michal Cekovsky dunk. And on the very next possession, Melo Trimble tied the game by nailing an open triple thanks to a nifty dish from, you guessed it, Mr. Wells.

Wells went on to nail three of his four free-throw attempts down the stretch before capping his night with a hand-in-the-face, clock-winding-down 18-footer that all but sealed the victory with 10 seconds remaining.

Wells ended the game with 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting, while converting 6-of-7 foul shots. He also pulled down a dozen rebounds – four offensive – and dished out four assists. Wells did turn the ball over four times in the first half, but in the latter 20 minutes he played close-to-flawless basketball.

His fearless, hard drives seemed to give his team energy, while his work on the glass afforded UMD a certain grittiness it needed in this grind-it-out affair.

Wells more than held his own defensive too, even though he didn’t record a steal. He did a good job cutting off driving lanes and staying with his man, David Rivers (three points), most of the night.

Trimble Won’t Back Down

What freshman wall?

Terps point guard Melo Trimble continues to impress, and March 8 he came up clutch once again, scoring 21 points on 5-of-9 shooting (9-of-10 from the line); grabbing six rebounds; and handing out four assists against three turnovers.

Trimble, like Wells, did his best work in crunch time, breaking Nebraska’s back with two long treys and some eye-opening dimes.

When Maryland’s half-court offense looked lackluster early in the second half, Trimble (and Wells for that matter) started attacking the hoop in earnest. The Huskers couldn’t contain the stronger point guard, and Trimble ended up with either a layup or a trip to the line, which for him is just as good as a layup.

With the Terps down four, Trimble beat his man off the dribble, sliced through the heart of the defense and scored underneath to make it a 40-38 game. He did the same thing on at least three more occasions in the final 12 minutes, racking up fouls and buckets to keep the Terps afloat.

Two of his most significant shots, though, were the pair of 3-pointers he drained. When Nebraska stretched its lead to six with 12:50 to go, Trimble nailed a step-back triple from NBA range to make it a 44-41 game. Three minutes later, the point guard tied the score when he took a pass from Wells and drained a transition trey.

Naturally, Trimble found his open teammates as well, giving out at least two replay-worthy assists. The first came halfway through the latter frame, Trimble busting through traffic and then finding Michal Cekovsky underneath for a dunk. Less than a minute later, Trimble hit an open Jake Layman for 3 before pulling off a Steve Blake-like dime, dropping a bounce pass through the lane to Wells for an easy lay-in.

Of course, he did his thing from the charity stripe too. The Big Ten’s top free throw shooter drew five fouls March 8, and he ended up nailing nine of his 10 attempts.

And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Trimble’s defense, which wasn’t too shabby either. He held his counterpart, Benny Parker, to one point on 0-of-3 from the floor, while he grabbed a half-dozen defensive rebounds to boot. Trimble fought hard amongst the trees and pulled down a couple “man sized” boards, leading to at least two transition baskets.

It’s The Little Things

Nebraska’s defense deserves plenty of credit as the Huskers played the Terps tough and forced plenty of contested shots. But Maryland’s offensive sets seemed to lack a bit of, shall we say, creativity March 8.

Compounding the problem was UMD’s penchant for turning the ball over, which the Terps did 17 times to seven for NU. The Huskers ended up with 10 steals on the night, while Maryland had none. (The tone was set early; UMD coughed the ball up on each of its first three possessions. The Terps didn’t get a shot up until two minutes into the game).

But even though it wasn’t an aesthetically pleasing performance -- the quick-trigger officials didn’t help matters -- the Terps still found a way to win. First and foremost, they took advantage of their foul shots. The Huskers? Well, they did not.

Maryland went to the line 25 times March 8 and nailed 21 free throws. Nebraska, meanwhile, visited the charity stripe an astounding 37 times, but made just 23 shots (62 percent).

Dez Wells was 6-of-7, Melo Trimble was 9-of-10 and Jake Layman was 4-of-4. NU’s Shavon Shields made 10 of his 11 free throws, but in the final minutes David Rivers went to the line six times and nailed just one of them.

Besides the foul shots, the Terps got a tad lucky March 8, because the Huskers wasted so many opportunities to pull away. NU recorded an eye-popping 16 offensive rebounds, but had only nine second-chance points.

Moreover, the Huskers shot 31 percent from the field and were 2-of-13 from range (15 percent). Credit goes to the Terps for hedging on the shooters, effectively employing a box-and-one and fighting through screens, but NU missed its share of open looks and didn’t efficiently move the ball.

It should also be noted that although Jake Layman had another off night offensively (3-of-9 from the floor) and only grabbed one rebound, he didn’t let it affect his defense. Layman ended up with three blocks, including a key stuff of Shavon Shields with five minutes to go, preserving a two-point Terps lead.

Flashes Underneath, But Lacking Consistency

Maryland’s frontcourt has been an issue all season, and March 8 was basically a microcosm of the previous four months. The bigs played well in spots against NU, but they lacked consistency and committed a few bonehead errors too.

Freshman Michal Cekovsky returned to action and ended up with two points and four rebounds, while he altered some shots as well. But Cekovsky also had four fouls, three resulting from his failing to go straight up with a Huskers’ shooter. The 7-footer also missed a couple “bunnies” underneath around the rim. That said, Cekovsky’s athleticism and upside is apparent; he just needs to put it altogether.

Sophomore Damonte Dodd had a similar outing in that he scored five points and grabbed four rebounds, two of which were of the offensive variety. With the score 24-22, Dodd boxed out his man, snagged an offensive rebound and hit an easy layup to knot the game up. Then, at the very end of the half, Dodd grabbed another board, ran hard in transition, and was on the receiving end of a Dez Wells pass for another lay-in.

But Dodd also fumbled the ball away on one occasion, failed to secure a rebound on another and was caught flatfooted on defense several times. Most egregiously, he failed to muscle up and box out on the defensive end, part of the reason why NU had 16 offensive rebounds.

The Terps’ third big man, Jon Graham, didn’t see much floor time March 8 and ended up with one foul and one turnover.

Last but not least, there was forward Evan Smotrycz, who seemingly took a step back after playing OK against Rutgers. Smotrycz routinely failed to cut off drivers and was a step-slow defensively, pulling a couple “ole’s” in the lane. He also committed four fouls, turned it over twice and wasn’t much of a presence on the glass either.

Ram Provides Valuable Minutes

Melo Trimble picked up his second foul on a charge call at the 13:24 mark in the first half, forcing head coach Mark Turgeon to sit the point guard for long stretches before halftime. Richaud Pack naturally got some burn running the show, but so did senior walk-on Varun Ram.

Rotating in with Trimble on basically a possession-by-possession basis, Ram did his best work on the defensive end. He didn’t record a steal, but the diminutive fireplug basically stalemated Nebraska’s best player, Terran Petteway, and forced at least two Huskers turnovers.

Petteway had a game-high 14 points in the first half (on 4 of 14 shooting), but with Ram actively face-guarding him, the Huskers’ guard didn’t hit a single field goal. Ram denied Petteway the ball, cut off his drives and forced him to give the ball up with some tight, in-your face defense.

Ram’s key contribution, though, came at the end of the half when he took an elbow from a driving Petteway, giving him three fouls. Petteway was forced to ride pine the rest of the half, allowing the Terps to draw even and eventually claw ahead by halftime, 31-29.

And while Turgeon subbed Trimble in on offense, Ram didn’t do a poor job running the point either. He didn’t turn the ball over, moved the ball around the perimeter and even found an open Jared Nickens for an elbow 3-pointer.

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