Offensive woes hurt Husker women in loss to Maryland in Big Ten tournament semifinals

Offensive woes hurt Husker women in loss to Maryland in Big Ten tournament semifinals
Nebraska guard Janay Morton led the Huskers with 15 points and was the only player in double figures. (The Associated Press)

INDIANAPOLIS — Nebraska allowed a point before the game’s opening tip Saturday night and not many bright spots followed.

The Huskers’ offense went stagnant too often in a 66-53 loss to Maryland in the semifinals of the Big Ten women’s basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Nebraska (21-10) will now wait to see if it did enough to get an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament. The Huskers have made one of the biggest turnarounds in the NCAA this season after winning just seven games a year ago.

They were considered to be on the bubble heading into the conference tournament, so NU will have to hope its quarterfinal win over Michigan will be enough to put it in.

“We think we’re deserving of being in the NCAA tournament,” Nebraska coach Amy Williams said. “We have so much respect for this conference and what we’ve done here collectively as a whole. For us to take the three seed and have a quality win over a ranked (Michigan) proves we can play with the best and deserve to be in the NCAA tournament.”

Maryland (25-6) was too athletic and had too many options offensively with four players scoring in double figures. Nebraska, in turn, had too many offensive droughts and didn’t have that one player who could create something on her own.

Janay Morton led the Huskers with 15 points and was the only player scoring in double figures.

Nebraska shot 31 percent from the field and just 25 percent during the first three quarters.

“This was clearly not our best night offensively,” Williams said. “Their defense had us out of sync and out of rhythm. … I think there were some times where we normally would have secured a rebound but because of their size, strength or athleticism, it came down in their favor. We felt disappointed because we did not handle that very well and because we feel we’ve done that better than what we showed here.”

Nebraska was called for a technical after the introduction of starting lineups due to Nicea Eliely changing her jersey number . Maryland split the free throws from the technical and then scored on its first two possessions, taking a 5-0 lead before the Huskers had their second possession.

Still, Nebraska took a 14-13 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter after consecutive 3-pointers by Maddie Simon and Hannah Whitish.

Things fell apart as the Husker offense went stagnant from that point, making just one field goal over the remaining 12 minutes of the first half.

Nebraska made just enough free throws — going 5 of 6 from the line during that stretch — to keep things relatively close and trailed 32-22 at halftime.

Maryland opened the second half on a 7-2 run, pushing its lead to 15, and Nebraska never got closer than seven points.

The Huskers did answer with a quick 8-0 run — on the strength of 3-pointers from Whitish and Morton — but Maryland didn’t allow a point over the final four minutes of the third quarter.

Whitish finished with six points, half her season average, and hit 2 of 12 shots. Maryland’s athletic perimeter defenders caused her problems all game.

“I didn’t notice anything different,” Williams said. “I think they were very aggressive with her pretty much all of the times we’ve played. I think they were very aggressive, put their best defensive players on her and pressured her the whole night — and that can really wear on you after playing two nights in a row.”

The Huskers struggled to find any rhythm as starting center Kate Cain was in foul trouble for a majority of the game and played just 21 minutes, finishing with six points, two rebounds and two blocks. Cain’s foul trouble has been a recurring problem in Nebraska’s three games against Maryland this season.

“Every time we’ve played Maryland they’ve taken it at (Cain) and she’s gotten into foul trouble,” Williams said. “We’ve had lots of discussion and ways to correct that. As a post presence for us, we can’t afford to have her on the bench.”Maryland is 11-0 in the Big Ten Tournament since joining the conference. Brianna Fisher led the Terrapins with 18 points, while Eleanna Christinaki had 14 points and 16 rebounds. Kaila Charles had 14 points, while Ieshia Small added 13.