No. 24 Maryland's Fernando a tall order for Nebraska
Despite losing three of four games, Maryland is still clinging to the Top 25. But the No. 24 Terrapins don't have to look beyond their next opponent to see how quickly a season can fall apart.
Maryland (17-6, 8-4 Big Ten) travels to Nebraska (13-9, 3-8) on Wednesday night to face a Cornhuskers squad that spent three weeks in the Top 25 before spiraling downward.
Nebraska has lost five straight and seven of its last nine, including a 71-64 setback Saturday at Illinois. Ending the skid in Lincoln against the Terrapins is a tall challenge.
The tallest obstacle is 6-foot, 10-inch, 240-pound sophomore Bruno Fernando, who is averaging 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. When the Terps clipped the Cornhuskers back on Jan. 2, Fernando scored 17 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.
That 74-72 loss in Maryland started the Huskers' current slide.
They missed free throws, didn't play hard on defense and were outhustled. At the time, head coach Tim Miles said his team was angry they let a game they should have won slip away.
"If we stay angry, I'll be very happy," Miles said. "It's about capitalizing on those chances when we have an opportunity to build a lead or seize the moment. It's not difficult to get yourself upset over what happened at Maryland. Maryland's a high-quality team."
Instead of staying angry, the Cornhuskers stayed in a funk and have been inconsistent.
Even though James Palmer Jr. continues to score -- he's second in the conference at 19.3 per game, his field-goal percentage has dipped to 37.9 percent. He also lost running mate Isaac Copeland to a season-ending knee injury, further depleting Miles' thin bench.
"Our kids are working their tails off," Miles said after the loss to Illinois. "We gotta stay positive and understand that you can't, you just have to keep competing. You can't worry about outcome."
Head coach Mark Turgeon has taken the same approach with the Terrapins, who were ranked 13th on Jan. 21 but have tumbled since and lost at Wisconsin on Friday, 69-61.
"We battled," Turgeon told reporters. "I was really proud of my team up until about seven minutes to go in the game. We had to overcome a lot -- a great building with great players, unbelievable foul trouble -- and we just kept battling. But in the end, it felt like they made every shot."
Free throws did in Maryland, which fell to 0-18 against ranked teams on the road under Turgeon. The Big Ten leaders at the charity stripe went just 3-for-8.
Freshman point guard Eric Ayala scored 18 points to lead the Terrapins. Bruno sat with foul problems and finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
"Obviously my team needs me on the court to be the team we are and do the things we are able to do," Fernando told the Baltimore Sun.
Tanner Borchardt steps into the Nebraska starting lineup in place of Copeland. He'll have the task of trying to contain Fernando.
In the loss to Illinois, Borchardt set career highs with 12 points and 18 rebounds.
Palmer, who played his first two seasons at Miami, needs only eight points to reach 1,000 career points at Nebraska.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 5, 2019