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NIT run comes to a close in 88-72 loss to TCU

Nebraska just didn't have enough firepower to keep up with No. 1-seeded TCU on Sunday, putting an end to its 2018-19 season.
Nebraska just didn't have enough firepower to keep up with No. 1-seeded TCU on Sunday, putting an end to its 2018-19 season. (Getty Images)

Nebraska’s run to the second round of the NIT over the past two weeks was somewhat of a storybook script, overcoming serious roster limitations to win four of five games.

The season would have no fairytale ending, however, as the No. 4-seeded Huskers’ run was put to an end in an 88-72 loss at No. 1 TCU on Sunday night.

Senior James Palmer Jr. didn’t score at all in the first half but finished with a team-high 19 points, while senior Tanner Borchardt posted a career-high 16 points and 13 rebounds. But that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome a 30-point effort from TCU’s Desmond Bane and

The defeat not only ends Nebraska’s 2018-19 campaign, it also shifts the spotlight fully on the future of head coach Tim Miles, whose seat has been hotter than ever as rumors of his firing have swirled.

"What we do now is we go home, we go home tomorrow, we take a deep breath, and then we see what's next for everybody," said NU assistant coach Jim Molinari on the postgame radio show, who filled in for Miles due to NCAA obligations.

Nebraska fell behind early but rallied back with an 8-0 run to take a 14-12 lead midway through the first half while TCU went more than five minutes without a made field goal. With the trio of Palmer, Glynn Watson, and Isaiah Roby struggling, offense proved hard to come by.

The Huskers went scoreless for more than three minutes to allow the Horned Frogs to go on an 8-0 run of its own and take a 27-19 lead on a 3-pointer by Kendric Davis. That lead grew to 31-21 on a layup by Bane with five minutes left in the half.

Two straight baskets by Borchardt helped pull NU to within five with just a minute left, but a 3-pointer and then a circus layup at the buzzer by Kouat Noi sent the Huskers into halftime down 40-32.

Borchardt had eight points and seven rebounds in the first half alone, as he, Johnny Trueblood (5) and Thorir Thorbjarnarson (7) combined to score 20 of Nebraska’s first 32 points. Palmer (0-for-10 from the field), Watson (8), and Roby (4) had 12 on 5-of-21 shooting with three fouls and three turnovers.

Palmer finally found his groove to open the second half and made three straight 3-pointers, but each time TCU was able to answer and weathered the storm.

The turning point in the game came when Roby dove for a loose ball and got tied up with Davis on the floor. Roby appeared to shove Davis off of him, though replays showed some quality embellishment from Davis.

Regardless, Roby was ejected from the game with 11:59 remaining and leaving NU without one of its few remaining go-to players the rest of the night.

The Frogs extended their lead to 66-54 two minutes later on a layup by Bane, and the Huskers wouldn’t get any closer than nine points and trailed by as many as 15 over the final 8:15 of the night.

Watson ended the night with 17 points, nine rebounds, and six assists, while Trueblood had a career-best eight points off the bench. Nebraska shot a decent 43.1 percent from the field in the loss, but TCU was always a step ahead, finishing 50.9 percent for the game and 59.3 in the second half.

With his 19 points, Palmer finishes his senior year with 708, passing Dave Hoppen (704, 1984-85) for No. 1 on the school’s single-season scoring list. Palmer also broke Ray Gallegos’s NU record (1,237) for minutes played in a season with 1,269.

The Huskers end the season 19-17 overall and has still yet to make it past the second round of the NIT since 1997. TCU (22-13) advances to the NIT quarterfinals to host No. 3-seed Creighton on Tuesday.