Maryland defeats Nebraska 79-71 behind strong performances from Ayala and Wiggins

By Jack Rothenberg

The Maryland Terrapins secured their third win in four days, as they took down the Nebraska Cornhuskers for the second straight night 79-71. Junior guards Aaron Wiggins and Eric Ayala led the way with 22 and a career-high 24 points respectively. Maryland (13-10 ; 7-9) is building up a head of steam and beginning to set themselves up nicely to secure an NCAA tournament bid.

Wiggins and Ayala were the catalysts for the Maryland offense throughout the entire game. The two combined for 30 of the Terps’ 40 first half points, but more importantly, as we head into the latter stages of February, Wiggins is hitting his stride. “We’ve changed our offense a little bit, which gives him more freedom and he’s good at reading screens. He’s being more aggressive (and) tonight he made threes which was great,” head coach Mark Turgeon said.

The Terps made eight three-pointers in the first half, six from the junior guard combo, as they built a 40-33 halftime lead playing with a five-out lineup (no big-men) for the majority of the half. On the flip side, Nebraska knocked down six threes of their own, and while the Maryland defense held Nebraska to 37 percent shooting in the half, the strength of their three point shooting was a big reason why the Terps only held a seven point advantage.

Early in the second half, the Terps found the separation on the scoreboard they were seeking in the latter stages of the first. A six point lead for Maryland quickly turned into 15 after two threes, one from Ayala and the other from Wiggins, as well as an and-one for junior forward Jairus Hamilton which made it a 54-39 game. Maryland held onto this cushion for most of the second half. Nebraska was able to make it interesting late, but the Terps’ lead was insurmountable with under three minutes to play. 

Thirteen total threes on the night for the Terps helped push the lead to above 20 at times in the second period, and was more than enough to down the Cornhuskers. 

Tuesday night Maryland committed 17 turnovers, but on Wednesday only committed four. In the first matchup when the Terps stopped giving away possessions, they were able to go on a 20-6 run to close the game. Limited giveaways was a key part of Maryland’s success, and will continue to be the rest of the season.

Senior forward Daryll Morsell eclipsed the 1,000 point mark for his career early in the second half Wednesday night. Turgeon spoke about Morsell and his impact throughout all four years after the game. “When I signed him I didn’t think he would be a 1,000 point scorer. I thought he was going to be a great defender, tough guy… He’s going to be a top 10, 15, 20 defender (in Maryland history),” Turgeon said. 

The Terps took care of business during their first back-to-back games at home since 1949, and earned their third straight win in conference play. Next in the line of games against unranked teams is Rutgers on Feb. 21. Another chance for the Terps to polish their resume with a quadrant one win. Maryland didn’t have a great outing last matchup in December, but there is a new feeling around the squad from College Park. And that’s a winning feeling. 

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