LINCOLN — Deep into its 90-71 romp over the Nebraska women’s basketball team, No. 11 Maryland’s roster of healthy, useful players had dwindled to six.
The Terrapins didn’t break a sweat. They didn’t have to. Not when three NU players — bunched in the lane, faces pinched in concentration — couldn’t stop Terps forward Alyssa Thomas from putting on an impressive show on Wednesday at the Devaney Center.
A 6-foot-3 post playing point guard most of the night, Thomas dazzled the No. 21 Huskers and muffled 6,238 fans with a smooth handle and a stat line to remember: 25 points, eight assists, six steals and five rebounds.
“Alyssa Thomas is a stud,” NU forward Jordan Hooper said.
“She’s big and she can handle the rock,” Husker guard Lindsey Moore said.
“She’s pretty phenomenal,” coach Connie Yori said. “She’s a matchup nightmare. She can basically do anything. You try to match with her, but we didn’t have the firepower. She dominated the game.”
Thomas took the ball from one end of the court to the other, dishing to wide-open 3-point shooters. She caught long baseball passes that broke NU’s press. She picked the pocket of Husker guards at midcourt. She zipped around taller defenders and shot over shorter ones.
“We knew they couldn’t really guard us on the wing,” Thomas said as politely as one could impart such a harsh truth.
“They started sending three players at her,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.
Moore, Hooper and Yori — who have won their own accolades in their careers — praised Thomas’ performance plaintively, without shock. Though Nebraska had the home-court advantage in this marquee ACC/Big Ten Challenge tilt and though the Terrapins were struggling with leg cramps and other ailments, Yori said Maryland’s roster full of “high school All-Americans” put her team at a talent disadvantage.
“Is it a big surprise we lost by 19? No,” said Yori, who thinks Maryland could compete for the national title. “It’s not a big surprise, frankly. If you look at their personnel — their personnel’s better than ours. I’m a realist. Just the way it is.”
Yet the Huskers (5-2 overall) led the Terrapins (4-1) 31-27 with five minutes left in the first half. It had been a brisk, physical game with few fouls, and Nebraska had successfully traded blows with Maryland, an NCAA tournament Elite Eight team last year.
So Frese called a 30-second timeout. And Thomas turned up her game.
She assisted on a 3-pointer from Laurin Mincy. Forty seconds later, she stole the ball from NU freshman Rachel Theriot, which led to another 3-pointer. A minute later, another steal, another assist on a layup. Maryland suddenly led 38-33. The Terps stretched the lead to 46-37 by halftime. Nebraska never got closer.
Yori said she liked how the Huskers competed throughout, but 33 percent shooting in the second half — which included what Yori said were 13 missed shots in the paint — couldn’t hold up against Maryland’s fast break and offensive efficiency.
Though the Terps had been outrebounding opponents by 28 heading into Wednesday’s game, NU lost just 41-40. Hooper, who finished with 15 points and six rebounds, spent most of the night among Maryland’s tall frontcourt. She hit just 5 of 15 shots while Terrapin forward Tianna Hawkins finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
“They were really physical,” Hooper said.
Moore finished with 17 points, five assists and five turnovers. She had ice on her leg after the game after catching a knee from a Maryland player.
NU plays Idaho State at home on Saturday. After Wednesday’s game, Hooper said the Huskers had already turned their focus away from the best opponent they may play all year toward the Bengals, who won the Big Sky Conference last season.
“We need to clean up the little things, details again, play a full 40 minutes, all that good stuff,” Hooper said.
Maryland (4-1) ................. 46 44—90
At Nebraska (5-2) ................. 37 34—71
UM: Hawkins 9-14 3-4 21, Thomas 9-19 7-9 25, DeVaughn 3-5 2-2 8, Mincy 6-10 0-0 16, Pavlech 3-7 0-0 8, Austin 0-0 0-0 0, Howard 1-2 0-2 2, Pfirman 2-5 0-0 4, Rutan 2-7 1-1 6. Totals 35-69 13-18 90.
NU: Sample 4-12 0-1 9, Cady 3-8 0-0 6, Hooper 5-15 4-5 15, Moore 6-11 2-2 17, Theriot 2-8 1-2 6, Laudermill 4-9 0-0 8, Williams 1-3 1-2 3, Jeffery 2-2 1-2 5, Simon 0-0 0-0 0, Murren 0-0 0-0 0, Maurer 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-69 9-14 71.
3-point goals: UM 7-15 (Mincy 4-4, Pavlech 2-5, Rutan 1-4, Pfirman 0-2), NU 6-13 (Moore 3-3, Sample 1-2, Theriot 1-2, Hooper 1-4, Laudermill 0-2). Fouled out: None. Rebounds: UM 41 (Hawkins 12), NU 40 (Cady 7). Assists: UM 18 (Thomas 8), NU 18 (Moore 5). Total fouls: UM 14, NU 18. Att.: 6,238.
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