COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland pounced on Nebraska at the outset, taking control with deft shooting and relentless defence.
The knockout blow came in the third quarter, when the No. 7 Terrapins rattled off 16 straight points to pull away to an 89-63 victory Thursday night.
Standing alone atop the Big Ten, Maryland (23-2, 12-2) will carry an eight-game winning streak into Iowa on Sunday with first place on the line. The 14th-ranked Hawkeyes are one game back with four to play.
“I’m excited about another great opportunity for us,” Terps coach Brenda Frese said. “I love going into this game where we’re at right now. We’re peaking at the right time.”
The Terrapins gained lone possession of the top spot last Sunday, bolting to a fast start in a rout of Rutgers. Maryland used a similar approach against the Cornhuskers, hitting its first four shots for a 9-0 lead.
Nebraska’s first possession resulted in a shot-clock violation, and six more turnovers followed over the first four minutes while Maryland went up 14-4.
“Maryland came out and tried to punch us in the mouth,” Cornhuskers coach Amy Williams said. “We had uncharacteristic turnovers and were kind of were in panic mode, throwing the ball into the third row of the stands.”
The Cornhuskers stayed within striking distance until Taylor Mikesell drilled a pair of 3-pointers in a 16-0 run that made it 69-45 entering the fourth quarter.
“It was hard for us to recover at that point,” Williams said. “It’s kind of hard to get that truck stopped.”
Nicea Eiely scored 18 points for the Cornhuskers (11-14, 6-8), who have lost five of seven. Freshman Leigha Brown, coming off a 30-point performance against Purdue on Sunday, was limited to five points.
Nebraska closed to 41-34 at halftime by going 6 for 10 from 3-point range. In the second half, however, the Cornhuskers were 1 for 6 beyond the arc and were outscored 48-29.
The key was the 16-point run, a rapid-fire blitz that occurred over a three-minute span. Brianna Fraser started the run with a layup and Watson closed it out with a buzzer-beating shot from beyond the arc.
“We feed off each other, so when things escalate we push to keep it going,” Fraser said. “When we’re able to do that, I feel like we’re unstoppable.”
Nebraska guard Hannah Whitish and Williams were called for technical fouls in the pivotal third quarter. The one against Williams came during Maryland’s big run. Williams said: “It’s something that right now, I don’t think it’s best for us to comment on anything that has to do with officiating.”
Maryland improved to 11-0 against Nebraska, including an 81-63 blowout on Jan. 8. The Terps have won the last three games by a combined 57 points.
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers hung in there as best they could, but they lack the height and athleticism to pull off an upset on the road against Maryland.
Maryland: The Terrapins took care of business in workmanlike fashion, performing well enough to win comfortably and letting a variety of players share the scoring. Expect Maryland to crank up the intensity against Iowa with first place on the line.
Nebraska: Hosts No. 24 Michigan State on Sunday.
Maryland: Looks to improve road record to 10-1 at No. 14 Iowa on Sunday.