Feb 14, 2015; University Park, PA, USA; Maryland Terrapins guard Dez Wells (44) dribbles past Penn State Nittany Lions forward Ross Travis (43) in the second half at Bryce Jordan Center. The Terrapins won 76-73. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (21-5, 9-4) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-12, 5-8)
The Time: Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
The Location: Xfinity Center, College Park, Md.
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network
The Backstory: After a solid week that saw wins over Indiana and Penn State, Maryland rose three spots in the Associated Press poll. The Terps also won their first road contest since defeating Purdue back on Jan. 10. With only five games remaining, the Terps have won back-to-back games for the first time since they won three games against Purdue, Rutgers, and Michigan State from Jan. 10-17. Coach Mark Turgeon has his team right where they want to be, and Maryland still has a date with Wisconsin next week.
One of the biggest reasons for last week’s success was Maryland’s strong perimeter shooting. In two games, the Terps shot 49 percent from the floor in addition to connecting on 47.5 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. In those two games, we really saw the trio of forward Jake Layman, guard Melo Trimble, and guard Dez Wells really find their stride as a unit. Layman is thriving in the role of a true power forward, which ended up getting him named to the Karl Malone Award watch list on Tuesday. Maryland appears to be finally turning the corner and putting their bad stretch in conference play behind them. With home games against Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Michigan on tap, the Terps could be in good shape as we head into March.
After reaching the NCAA Tournament last season, Nebraska is having a very tough 2014-15 season. The Cornhuskers have lost five of their last decisions with the lone victory being against Northwestern. When you dissect Nebraska, it’s all about their star-studded backcourt. Junior Terran Petteway is the top scoring option for the Cornhuskers as he averages 18.6 points-per-game and 5.0 rebounds-per-game. Petteway really gives Nebraska a little bit of everything as his game is very diverse. One of his strong aspects is his ability to use screens to his advantage when handling the basketball. Petteway is very quick, which allows him to be extremely effective in transition. He isn’t afraid to drive hard to the basket or step up and shoot from beyond the arc on the break. Simply put, Petteway is an phenomenal athlete that can make shots from anywhere on the court.
His running mate, guard/forward Shavon Shields, is just as talented. At 6’7, Shields causes matchup problems for many opposing guards. Now this isn’t a guy that is going to hoist up many shots from the perimeter, but his post game is outstanding. Shields can beat any opposing player off the dribble, and is pretty quick for a guy of his size. The Kansas native is a banger, and is pretty physical when his motor is running. Shields can be just as dangerous as Petteway as he is averaging 15.8 ppg and 6.2 rpg.
Unlike Maryland, Nebraska’s point guard isn’t quite as flashy, but is still pretty talented. Guard Benny Parker is an incredibly quick floor general, and reads the passing lanes very well on the defensive end. Parker is currently eighth in the Big Ten with 1.4 steals-per-game, and has 36 thefts on the season. Parker is also a solid shooter as he is shooting 37.4 percent from the floor.
Keys/Storylines To Watch:
1.) Contain Petteway – As was mentioned above, Petteway is the straw that stirs the drink for the Cornhuskers. He is among the most talented players in the Big Ten, which is evident in the fact that he averages the third-most points in the conference. While Petteway drives to the basket with reckless abandon at times, the Texas native is able maintain body control, and complete some of the more dazzling plays you’ll ever see. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Wells drew the primary assignments of guarding Petteway, given Wells’ acumen and size.
2.) Low post battle – This could prove to be one of the more interesting one-on-one matchups of the entire game. Layman could end up defending Shields quite a bit in Thursday’s game. As was stated above, Shields can bang with anybody in the low post, and Layman’s length could be a secret weapon for the Terps. After all, Layman has played the role of power forward a ton this season, and has been pretty successful in doing so. The Massachusetts native commands attention in the low post due to his rebounding ability and his ability to alter shots on the defensive end. Center Damonte Dodd should also get plenty of burn as we know how Shields likes to bully his way into the lane. With Dodd blocking 1.5 shots a game, he could have a hand in slowing down the interior game of Nebraska.
3.) Point guards – There’s no two ways about: Trimble is playing some of his best basketball of the season right now. Maryland’s freshman sensation made the non-conference schedule look like a cakewalk, but things definitely haven’t been as easy in Big Ten play. After putting up a dud performance against Penn State in the first meeting (4 points on 0-of-5 shooting), the Bishop O’Connell product is averaging 19.3 ppg and only turned the ball over once against the Nittany Lions in their Valentine’s Day showdown. On the other hand, Parker is going to give Trimble all he can handle. Parker may not be the biggest guard at 5’9, but he can take advantage if Trimble gets careless with the ball. The Maryland guard did turn the ball over six times in just the Indiana and Iowa games. Look for Parker to try and clog the passing lanes on the perimeter to get the Cornhuskers out in transition.