COLLEGE PARK — Maryland couldn’t barricade the Nebraska onslaught triggered by a stifling 1-3-1 zone. Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon had no answers and was left flabbergasted in the wake of a rare collapse, watching a 13-point lead with less than seven minutes remaining vanish into a one possession game not even four minutes later.
By then, a free-flowing offense headed by Kevin Huerter’s seven 3-pointers crumbled, and failed to score a single point for the final six minutes and two seconds. Soon after Melo Trimble pushed Maryland’s lead to 64-51 with six minutes and 43 seconds remaining, Nebraska rallied with a 14-0 run down the stretch to stun the Terrapins at home, 67-65.
“It’s 100 percent on me there,” Turgeon said. “We just couldn’t finish. We just needed to make one play, one stop and rebound, or one play offensively. We just never did it.”
Turgeon was stunned and understandably not prepared. Outside of one possession in their previous game against Indiana, Nebraska has never ran a 1-3-1 zone under coach Tim Miles in his five years. The defense was implemented over Christmas. Michael Lewis, a Nebraska assistant, told Miles to call Xavier head coach Chris Mack, who utilizes the 1-3-1 frequently.
Mack and Miles conversed, and in the end — just six days into the system — dismantled a Terrapins offense that was shooting over 50 percent in the second half before the 1-3-1 was applied. Maryland missed their last nine shots and turned the ball over three times in the final seven minutes.
“I told the guys at the meeting yesterday, we have to knock Nebraska out,” Turgeon said. “And we never knocked them out.”
Adding to the curveball, Maryland hasn’t seen a 1-3-1 zone all year long, and with three freshmen who receive a good chunk of playing time, all Turgeon could do was turn to the veteran Trimble.
On the final possession, with the Terrapins (13-2, 1-1 Big Ten) inbounding under the basket with 4.7 seconds left, Turgeon’s plan was to run Trimble off a screen to receive a lob at the rim or an isolation jumper, but it never materialized. Trimble ended up taking the last shot, a contested 3-pointer that clanked off the back of the rim.
“Give credit to them, they made a run, we didn’t get stops,” Huerter said, who finished with a career-high 26 points on 7-for-11 shooting from behind the arc. “They got a lot of offensive rebounds. A lot of balls didn’t tip our way. They came back and did what we’ve done to a lot of teams this year
Maryland had their typical sluggish start, opening the first eight minutes with a two of 12 shooting performance, and trailed 10-7.
Nebraska led by as many as seven in the first half, when Glynn Watson (17 points, five rebounds and three steals) buried a 3 to push the Huskers ahead, 24-17. Maryland responded with a 10-2 run to take a 27-26 lead when Jared Nickens drilled a catch-and-shoot trey off an assist from Huerter.
Nebraska concluded the first half on an 8-1 run to hold a 34-30 halftime lead. The Cornhuskers went ahead by eight, 41-33, at the 16:26 mark when Michael Jacobson (10 points and nine rebounds) dropped in a gritty layup.
About five minutes later, Damonte Dodd, playing in his first game since Dec. 3, finished a put-back to ignite a 17-0 run giving Maryland a firm grasp on what would have been another impressive conference victory. The run was capped by a Huerter four-point-play, when he drilled one of his seven 3’s on the left wing while getting knocked to the hardwood.
After making the free throw, Maryland led 60-47 with eight minutes and 37 seconds to go. They held a double-digit lead up until one of the largest collapses in the Turgeon era.
“It’s basketball,” Trimble said. “We just have go to practice and learn from it.”
Earlier in the week, Turgeon wanted the freshman wing, Huerter, to shoot the ball more. During practice, Turgeon noticed an upswing in Huerter’s confidence, and pushed the 2016 New York Gatorade Player of the Year to attempt more shots than the six per game he’s averaging.
Huerter attempted 17 shots on Sunday, with seven 3’s, two off the school record. His first, sixth and seventh 3’s gave Maryland a 6-2, 54-47 and 60-47 lead.
His second 3 knotted the game at 10-10, and his third, fourth and fifth brought Maryland within 22-26, 33-35 and 41-43. Huerter took advantage of Nebraska focusing on Trimble, who had two points on 1-for-5 shooting in the first half. Trimble finished with 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
“Nebraska did a great job of stopping Melo, and it opened things up for Kevin,” Turgeon said. “You could see (Kevin’s performance) coming. … It was good to see.”
Cowan added seven points and four rebounds. Dodd (MCL sprain) would up with six points and four rebounds in 13 minutes of work.
Tai Webster had 18 points and five assists for Nebraska (8-6, 2-0 Big Ten), who shot 42.1 percent (24 of 57). Maryland, meanwhile, shot 35.4 percent (23 of 65) and will play at Michigan on Saturday, January 7.