NU's Big Ten Tourney run ends in 66-62 loss to Badgers
CHICAGO – For the fourth time in six days, the undermanned No. 13-seed Nebraska played with as much fight, effort, and want-to it could muster in its showdown with No. 4 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals on Friday.
This time, though, the Huskers came up a few plays short.
Glynn Watson scored a game-high 23 points, as he, James Palmer Jr. (15), and Isaiah Roby (13) combined for 51 points with NU only using six players the entire game. But after taking the lead with 10 minutes to play, Nebraska couldn’t do the improbable again and fell 66-62.
The Huskers did a masterful job of shutting down first-team All-Big Ten forward Ethan Happ, holding him to four points on four shots and forcing him to commit seven turnovers on the day. But five other Badgers stepped up with eight or more points, including four reaching double figures.
That depth proved to be the difference, as the Huskers (18-16) saw their magical run in Chicago came to an end.
“I’m extremely proud of this team and I’m proud to be their coach,” head coach Tim Miles said. “I thought that they fought as hard as they could and that they were in a great situation late with a chance to tie, go ahead, and we just missed on a few plays."
Wisconsin set the tone early by jumping out to an 8-0 lead while Nebraska missed its first three shots with two airballs and a turnover. The Badgers (23-9) ended up hitting five of their first six field goals with assists on all five of their makes.
The deficit quickly grew to 21-8 after Miles was called for a technical foul for arguing a basket interference call on Roby. That sparked an 11-2 UW run and was capped by a four-point by Aleem Ford with 12 minutes left in the half.
The Huskers were able to work their way back with defense, though, as they forced six turnovers over a span of four minutes to pull within 25-21. But Wisconsin’s offense wouldn’t slow down when it wasn’t giving the ball up, and it quickly responded with a 9-0 run to push its lead up to 13 again on a layup by Khalil Iverson with just under four minutes before the half.
Once again NU was able to answer, as Watson went on a personal 8-0 run while the Badgers were held scoreless for the final 3:50 of the half, cutting the deficit to 34-29 at halftime.
Wisconsin shot 56.5 percent from the field and assisted on 12 of its 13 made field goals, but its nine turnovers led to nine Nebraska points and kept things from getting completely out of hand. Watson scored 13 of his 23 points in the first half with three made 3-pointers.
“I thought Glynn’s legs looked good, and he was the guy we were riding,” Miles said. “I thought he had a little hop in his step all night.”
A 3-pointer by Roby pulled Nebraska to within 36-34 early in the second half, and after missing five straight shots a three by Thorir Thorbjarnarson trimmed the deficit to 45-44. A layup by Palmer finally gave NU its first lead of the day with 10:08 remaining.
But a banked 3-pointer by Nathan Reuvers sparked another 7-0 Badger run while the Huskers missed six straight to put Wisconsin back on top 52-46 with seven minutes to go. Nebraska ended up going five minutes without making a field goal, but five straight points by Watson finally snapped the drought and got NU back to 55-53 with 4:14 on the clock.
Watson had a chance to tie it up with 1:59 left but missed the front end of a one-and-one, and then his jumper was off the mark on the ensuing possession after a stop. Wisconsin came up with a huge 3-pointer by D’Mitrik Trice with 50.9 remaining, and then Brad Davison added two free throws to make it a seven-point game.
That would prove to be the dagger for Nebraska, as it never got within five the rest of the way.
“They made plays at the end,” Watson said. “That’s what good teams do.”
Along with eliminating Happ, the Huskers forced 17 Badger turnovers but only managed 14 points off of those. Walk-on Johnny Trueblood was the only reserve to play in the game, and he finished with four points and four rebounds.
Thorir Thorbjarnarson had five points, while Tanner Borchardt only had two points and three boards. The six Huskers who saw the floor played at least 22 minutes each, with Palmer, Watson, and Roby all going the full 40.
Watson and Palmer played all 120 minutes over NU’s three Big Ten Tournament games, while Roby played all but four. The Huskers said fatigue may have been a factor on Friday, but it wasn’t the reason they lost.
“Some of my shots were flat; I don’t know if that was fatigue or not,” Palmer said. “I didn’t feel tired, but you guys were the ones looking from the outside. Some of our shots were flat and weren’t falling at the end, but I wouldn’t blame it on our legs.”
Nebraska will await its postseason fate on Sunday, where they could earn a bid to the National Invitation Tournament for the second season in a row. If invited, Miles and NU associate athletic director Marc Boehm both said the team would accept.
“I’ll go anywhere,” Miles said. “If they take us, we’re going.”