Nebraska-Maryland Preview

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When No. 24 Nebraska and Maryland face off Wednesday at College Park, Md., it will be the Cornhuskers' veterans versus the Terrapins' youth.

The top four players for the Cornhuskers (11-2, 1-1 Big Ten) are seniors. They have provided the leadership expected as Nebraska cruised through its nonconference schedule, which included significant wins against Oklahoma State, Seton Hall, Clemson and Creighton.

The Terrapins (10-3, 1-1) are the exact opposite, relying on youth. Maryland boasts one of the top freshman class in the nation. Two of the team's three losses came against Purdue (by two points) and then-No. 4 Virginia.

Coach Mark Turgeon has watched his freshmen make strides.

"I think the Virginia game (a 76-71 loss on Nov. 28), they clearly were not ready for that one," Turgeon told the Baltimore Sun after a 78-74 victory Saturday over Radford, his team's final nonconference game this season.

"Stix (Jalen Smith) struggled a little bit in that game, he's gotten a lot better. Eric Ayala was probably the only one that was ready for that game. The rest of them have really grown. ... We feel good where our young kids are and how well they're playing."

The young Terrapins - Smith and Ayala are freshmen - will get a good test from Nebraska's upperclassmen.

Seniors James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr. pace Nebraska in most offensive categories. Palmer leads the way at 19.6 points per game and is particularly effective at the free-throw line, where he is shooting 83.5 percent.

Copeland (14.5 points, 5.6 rebounds per game) provides a deft outside touch with ruggedness around the rim.

Watson is the floor general, scoring 13.6 points per game and leading the team with an average of 4.1 assists.

Junior Isaiah Roby Jr. has not had the season so far that many predicted. And now he is questionable with a groin injury.

The 6-foot-8 Roby was hurt in practice last week and missed Nebraska's win over Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday.

"He had a good practice," Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles said Monday. "But those things are tricky. You have to be careful -- to aggravate it doesn't take too much."

Roby's numbers are down this season. Roby is shooting 46 percent from the field this season after shooting 56.5 percent last season. He is 4 of 20 from 3-point range (20 percent) after going 17 of 42 from distance (40.1 percent) last season.

His offense hasn't been missed all that much, and maybe that's why Miles is willing to be cautious.

"Sometimes it takes a while to come back and get your rhythm," Miles said.

Against Maryland, the Cornhuskers might miss Roby's defense. Maryland sophomore Bruno Fernando had 19 points and 12 rebounds against Radford for his sixth double-double of the season. He also leads the Big Ten with an average of 2.5 blocked shots per game.

Fernando says the Maryland freshmen have a work ethic that is contagious.

"You have to give them credit, they work extremely hard every day at practice," Fernando said.

Freshman Ayala told the Sun, "We've got goals of being the most-improved team in the Big Ten this year. I think we're very capable of that. Just learning every day. One day at a time. Just growing. Us freshmen, we've got to step up and be more consistent."