The Nebraska men’s basketball team rallied from a 13-point deficit to lead No. 19 Wisconsin with less than 10 minutes to play, but the Huskers fell just short down the stretch in a 66-62 loss to the Badgers Friday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Huskers trailed by 13 with less than four minutes remaining in the first half, but closed the half on an 8-0 run to pull within five at the break. The Huskers fought all the way back to grab a 46-45 lead midway through the second half. Wisconsin regained the lead, but Nebraska trailed by just two with less than a minute to play before the Badgers made a clutch 3-pointer and hit 6-of-7 free throws down the stretch to hold on for the win.
Nebraska (18-16) played only six players in the game, with James Palmer Jr., Isaiah Roby and Glynn Watson Jr. playing all 40 minutes. Watson scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Palmer added 15 points and four steals and Roby chipped in 13 points and four blocks. That trio combined for 51 of Nebraska’s 62 points, but all six Huskers who played scored, with Thorir Thorbjarnarson contributing five points, Johnny Trueblood scoring four points and Tanner Borchardt making his only shot to finish with two points.
Wisconsin was led by four players in double figures. Khalil Iverson and Nate Reuevers each scored 14 points, while Brad Davison and Aleem Ford had 11 points each. The Badgers (23-9) advanced to Saturday’s semifinal to face fifth-ranked Michigan State, the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
Wisconsin scored the first eight points of the game and made five of its first six shots to build an early 10-2 advantage. Nebraska scored the next four points before Wisconsin used a pair of big possessions to fuel an 11-2 run and take a 13-point lead at the 12-minute mark. A Roby follow-up dunk was wiped away due to a controversial goal-tending call and the Nebraska bench received a technical foul for arguing the call. Wisconsin made the two technical foul shots and then Ford hit a 3-pointer to cap a five-point possession. The next trip down the court, Ford made another three and was fouled, hitting the free throw to complete a four-point play.
Trailing 21-8, Watson answered with a 3-pointer to spark a 10-2 run that trimmed the Badger lead to five midway through the period. The Huskers pulled within four before going scoreless for more than four minutes, during which time Wisconsin scored nine straight points to build a 34-21 lead with at the 3:27 mark. Watson then scored the final eight points of the half to pull Nebraska within 34-29 at the break. Watson scored 13 of NU’s final 21 points in the half.
Wisconsin shot 57 percent in the first half, but the Huskers did force nine turnovers against a Badger squad that averages fewer than 10 turnovers per game.
In the second half, Roby scored five straight points to cut the lead to two, but Wisconsin answered with a 3-pointer. Nebraska pulled back within two on a Watson three that made it 43-41 with 14:15 to play. After the Huskers missed four opportunities to tie or take the lead, the Badgers broke a three-minute scoring drought with a putback. But Thorbjarnarson answered with a 3-pointer and Palmer added a layup to put Nebraska on top 46-45 with 10 minutes remaining.
After taking the lead, Nebraska missed its next eight shots and went nearly five minutes without scoring. Wisconsin took advantage with a 7-0 run to take a 52-46 lead at the 7:13 mark. Roby broke the Huskers’ scoring drought with a pair of free throws and Watson scored five points in 33 seconds to pull Nebraska back within two with four minutes to play.
A Palmer steal and Trueblood layup kept Nebraska within two at the three-minute mark. Neither team scored over the next two minutes, as Wisconsin took a timeout leading 57-55 with 58 seconds remaining. D’Mitrik Trice drilled a clutch 3-pointer following the timeout and Wisconsin knocked down 6-of-7 free throws in the final 40 seconds to hang on for the win.