Jalen Smith's late-game heroics lift Maryland men's basketball over No. 24 Nebraska, 74-72

Maryland’s Jalen Smith started Wednesday night’s game looking like a player still recovering from a 24-hour stomach flu, which caused the freshman from Baltimore to miss his first college basketball game last Saturday against Radford.

The former Mount Saint Joseph star finished it looking like the first-round NBA draft pick he’s projected to be, scoring the last seven points for Maryland as the Terps beat No. 24 Nebraska, 74-72, at Xfinity Center.


After Smith’s putback — coming off a missed 3-pointer by junior guard Anthony Cowan Jr. — with 31 seconds to go to put Maryland up 72-71, James Palmer hit one of two free throws to tie the game. After two timeouts, one by each team, Smith hit a floater with 3.8 seconds to go to give Maryland (11-3, 2-1 Big Ten) the victory.

“He wasn’t very good early,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said of Smith, who hit just one shot, a 3-pointer, in the first half but finished with 15 points, including 12 in the second half. “I was just chewing on him, the assistants were chewing on him. He responded. We need ‘Stix’ to play like that. If he plays like that, we’re a much better team.”

Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles set up a last-second play that seemed to work — an eventual lob pass to jumping jack Isaiah Roby that was knocked away by Maryland’s own jumping jack, freshman Ricky Lindo Jr.

Sophomore center Bruno Fernando has grown into a low-post force for Maryland this season.

The victory was the first by the Terps over a ranked team since a win over No. 18 Purdue — when Maryland was ranked fourth — during the 2015-16 season. The Terps had lost their past eight games against ranked teams.

“I’m just glad we won. We still made the same mistakes,” Turgeon said. “Three turnovers [down the stretch], played in a little bit of a panic. We kept fouling. I’m not sure we fouled, to be quite honest with you. They were calling fouls on us.

“We overcame that. We’ve got a young team. And we’re doing some really good things. And this will give us some confidence moving forward. We beat a really old team, a really good team, a really well-coached team. … We’re growing up right before your eyes.”

Cowan led Maryland with 19 points. Sophomore center Bruno Fernando finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds, but also committed six of Maryland’s 13 turnovers.

Palmer, who scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half of last year’s 70-66 win over the Terps in Lincoln, finished with 26 on Wednesday to lead the Cornhuskers (11-3, 1-2), scoring 13 points in the first 10:20 to help Nebraska lead by as many as five, 29-24.

Maryland went on a 9-0 run fueled by Fernando and Cowan, but Nebraska answered with an 8-0 run of its own. The Corhuskers led at halftime, 39-35, on a baseline floater by sophomore guard Thomas Allen with 1.8 seconds left in the half.

Cowan finished the half with 10 points, and Fernando had eight points and nine rebounds, but also committed four of Maryland’s eight first-half turnovers.

Smith only played nine minutes in the first half, and except for an early corner 3-pointer, didn’t contribute much to Maryland’s cause. After scoring on a dunk to start the second half, he didn’t do much until the final minutes.

Instant analysis: Maryland looked like a team that wasn’t sure how to finish a close game. That’s not surprising, since the Terps had lost three of six games decided by six points or fewer this season and 11 of 19 over the past two seasons. This could go a long way to helping Maryland get some momentum, but the Terps can’t take a step back when they go on the road to Rutgers on Saturday. The Terps won just two Big Ten road games last season and have already blown a great opportunity last month at Purdue.

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