Maryland men's basketball coach Mark Turgeon talks about the team's loss to Nebraska. (Don Markus, Baltimore Sun video)
Given how thin his roster has been for most of the Big Ten season, Maryland men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon can ill-afford to lose any rotation players with foul trouble, especially either of his sophomore guards.
When Kevin Huerter picked up his third personal only 47 seconds into the second half at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday night, the Terps led by two after taking their first halftime lead in a road game in nearly a month. By the time Huerter returned nearly 3½ minutes later, Maryland trailed Nebraska by seven.
It appeared foul trouble on both Huerter, who picked up his fourth with over 10 minutes, and freshman guard Darryl Morsell (Mount Saint Joseph), who got his fourth with over seven minutes left, would doom the Terps.
Eventually, it did in a 70-66 defeat.
“I got to watch the film on Kevin’s third foul. That was a huge call, Kevin said he didn’t touch him,” Turgeon said later. “Him and Darryl we’ve got to have on the court, especially against a guy like [James] Palmer [Jr.] and [Isaac] Copeland Jr., experienced guys, fourth-year guys.”
Palmer, a redshirt junior who was a couple of years ahead of Terps sophomore guard Anthony Cowan Jr. at St. John’s College High, led the Cornhuskers with 26 points. It marked the first time Nebraska (20-8, 11-4) has won 20 regular-season games since 1992-93.
It was the seventh straight road loss for Maryland (17-11, 6-9) and the eighth overall this season by six points or fewer.
“Another tough loss for us on the road,” Turgeon said. We keep competing out there and we keep losing by three or four. I thought we were going to get over the hump tonight. … We could have folded. They got up [seven], the building was live, they were feeling good. Two of our best defenders picked up fouls, changed the game.”
After cutting its deficit twice to a point, Maryland had a chance to take the lead in the final minute. Cowan’s potential go-ahead 3-pointer was blocked by Nebraska guard Glynn Watson Jr. with 53 seconds remaining.
Asked what he was looking for on that possession, Turgeon said flatly, “Not that, obviously.”
A little later, Turgeon added: “The last shot, we wanted to get a backdoor for Kevin. It didn’t work. Then we had a post up for Bruno [Fernando]. Obviously we didn’t think he was open, we didn’t throw it in. We penetrated and pitched. Ant [Cowan] thought he had a shot and Watson made an unbelievable block.”
Said Cowan, who finished shooting 3-for-13 overall, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers: “Watson did a good job of closing out. He was pretty far out. I didn’t think he was going to be anywhere near it.”
Sophomore forward Isaiah Roby rebounded a 3-point miss by Watson and made both ends of a one-and-one. The Cornhuskers made six straight free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal their sixth straight victory and seventh Big Ten home win without a loss.
After scoring just two points in Saturday’s home win over Northwestern, freshman center Fernando tied his career high with 21 on 9-for-14 from the field and 3-for-5 from the foul line. The 6-foot-10 Angolan also had a team-high nine rebounds, a career-high five assists and two blocked shots.
“He didn’t start the game very well [missing his first two shots]. I thought he was terrific after that,” Turgeon said. “Five assists is great for him. He was reading the situations better. He hasn’t been very good against double-teams. He grew up a lot. He made some defensive mistakes late. It was good to see. He got more confident as the game went on.”
Said Fernando: “How well I played at the end of the day don’t matter if we lost the game. We lost the game and it’s gone and it’s over with and we’re moving on. It doesn’t matter how you play as an individual. If you played good as a team, that’s when we win games. As an individual, you don’t win anything, so that don’t matter to me.”