CHICAGO -- Maryland's early exits from the previous two Big Ten men's basketball tournaments were difficult for fans to digest, yet both were to teams, Northwestern and Wisconsin, that were close in talent and seeding to the Terps.
The same can't be said for Thursday's shocking 69-61 defeat to 13th-seed Nebraska in the second round of the 2019 Big Ten tournament at the United Center. It was not only hard to explain, but a lot harder to accept.
Maryland-killer James Palmer Jr. led the undermanned Cornhuskers with 24 points, including 14 in the first half to help his team to a 12-point halftime lead. Senior guard Glynn Watson Jr. added 19 points, including 12 in the second half.
Anthony Cowan Jr. led the 21st-ranked, fifth-seeded Terps with 18 points, but most of his points came after Maryland (22-10) was down double digits in the second half. Sophomore guard Darryl Morsell added 14 points and five assists.
Playing with just six scholarship players and seven overall, Nebraska (17-15) looked like the fresher team, not one that had beaten 12th-seed Rutgers on Wednesday. The Cornhuskers will move on to the quarterfinals Friday against the fourth-seeded Badgers.
The Terps simply looked flat, never responding to coach Mark Turgeon's early pleas of "Wake up ... wake up" until early in the second half.
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Trailing by as many 14 after a 3-pointer by Palmer, Maryland went on a 9-0 run to cut its deficit to five on a dunk by Morsell The Cornhuskers seemed to be running out of gas.
But after the under-16 media timeout, Nebraska got its second wind, helped by a second-chance layup by senior forward Tanner Borchardt that started a 9-0 run.
A layup by Palmer, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Palmer and Watson pushed the Cornhuskers back to a 14-point lead and forced Turgeon to call timeout.
Maryland never threatened again, getting as close as eight points with a little under four minutes left and to six on a pair of free throws by Cowan with 2:27 left.