Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Palmer hits 8 of 9 from the line to lead NU to 63-59 win
An ugly first half never really improved, yet Nebraska did just enough to make sure Wisconsin could not find a path back into the game on the way to a 63-59 win on Tuesday night.
Nebraska went up by 10 in the first half, hit a wall that was not made any easier by the officiating and made just one shot over the final five minutes of the first half to go into the break up by two. The Huskers then used a quick spurt to start the second half to go up 30-26, and kept it a two-possession game until a Badger 3-pointer trimmed it to 62-59 with 1.5 seconds to go.
Evan Taylor missed his first free throw to add one last layer of suspense, but hit the second shot with .9 seconds left to officially move Nebraska to 3-2 in Big Ten play.
“We need to tighten up,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. “I don’t think our mentality was where it needed to be. You could see that in the amount of assists and the poor shooting from ‘3’… I just thought they did a good job keeping us out of any continuity.”
James Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 18 points, and was 5-for-5 from the free throw line in the second half to help the Huskers keep Wisconsin from drawing even. Isaac Copeland hit 5 of 10 from the field, grabbed 6 rebounds and added a trio of blocked shots and a steal as part of a gritty offensive effort for NU.
Despite just 13 total fouls in the first half, it was still a sloppy, disjointed 20 minutes of basketball that ended in the home fans serenading the refs with a chorus of boos as they left for the break.
Nebraska found its footing first, and extended an early edge to 24-14 when Jordy Tshimanga capped an 8-0 run by converting a Glynn Watson Jr. lob pass with a two-handed dunk off of a pick-and-roll. That basket came with 5:24 left in the half.
The Huskers struggled to keep the momentum going, though, and only added two more points the rest of the period, when a ball slipped out of Isaiah Roby’s hands and somehow banked off the glass and dropped.
Wisconsin was the beneficiary of a pair of questionable charge calls, and found a way to cut the lead to 26-24 despite just 4 points for Ethan Happ in 17 first-half minutes. The first disputed call came when Evan Taylor created contact in transition, before Watson was called for a push off in the final 10 seconds prior to the break.
That led the Pinnacle Bank fans to let the refs hear their displeasure at the half after Nebraska attempted just four free throws in the first half.
The second half opened with a jumper for Happ’s, but the junior’s struggles continued early in the second half, including an airball on a pull up jumper as the shot clock expired. As Happ worked his way into the game, Wisconsin made Nebraska nervous.
Try as they might, though, Wisconsin simply could not pop the bubble and draw even.
The next Happ basket was a layup with 12:22 to go, before a personal 5-0 spurt brought the Badgers to within five at 50-45. After a free throw by Roby, Happ scored again to make it 51-47. That would be the closest Wisconsin would get until the basket in the final seconds.
Happ finished with 19 point and 11 rebounds on 9 of 15 shooting, and had a pair of assists and four steals to try and will Wisconsin to the win.
That was matched nicely by a 9-point, 6-rebound effort for Tshimanga and 8 rebounds for Roby off the bench. The duo of Thomas Allen Jr. and Anton Gill added 8 points each, with Gill hitting both of Nebraska’s 3-pointers in the game to give NU just enough offense to survive and get back above .500 in conference action.
“If we don’t have Jordy, we might not win the game,” Miles said. “That’s the quote you’re looking for, right?”