The Nebraska men’s basketball team endured one of its worst shooting performances of the season on Friday, as the fourth-seeded Huskers were eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament following a 77-58 loss to No. 5 seed Michigan at Madison Square Garden.
Nebraska shot just 30 percent on the game, making only 16 of its 53 attempts. The Huskers’ 16 field goals tied for their fewest in any game this season, while the 58 points marked the third-fewest points Nebraska has scored this season. The Huskers did the bulk of their scoring at the free-throw line, converting 22 of their 27 attempts.
While Nebraska struggled with its shot, Michigan was on fire from the 3-point line to avenge a 20-point loss to the Huskers in January. The Wolverines were 11-of-23 from beyond the arc against the Huskers on Friday, after Michigan made just 4-of-18 from 3-point range in their earlier loss to Nebraska and only 3-of-19 threes in their overtime win over Iowa on Thursday.
Nebraska (22-10) led by five early before missing 19 of its next 20 shots, allowing the Wolverines to turn a four-point deficit into an 18-point lead late in the first half. The Huskers attempted to claw back and cut the lead to 10 at the half and as few as seven in the second half. But Nebraska was never able to find its rhythm offensively, as Michigan (26-7) moved on to Saturday’s semifinal, where the Wolverines will take on in-state rival Michigan State.
Moritz Wagner, who was held to two points in the regular-season meeting between the teams, posted a double-double with 20 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led all scorers with 21 points, as he made all five of his 3-point attempts. Duncan Robinson added 16 points and hit 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
James Palmer Jr. and Isaiah Roby led three Huskers in double figures with 18 points apiece. Roby added a team-high seven rebounds and a game- and career-high five blocks. Glynn Watson Jr. chipped in 10 points for the Big Red.
In a cold-shooting first half, Nebraska made four of its first five shots to build an early 9-5 lead. But it was all Michigan after that, as the Wolverines used an 11-0 run to take a seven-point lead. Another 7-0 spurt 10 minutes later gave Michigan a 33-15 advantage with less than three minutes to play in the half. After its 4-of-5 start, Nebraska missed 19 of its next 20 shots and went more than seven minutes without a field goal before Palmer hit a driving layup and converted a free throw. Palmer’s three-point play sparked a 9-1 half-ending run, with Palmer scoring seven points during the run as Nebraska headed into the locker room down by 10 at 34-24.
Nebraska shot just 23 percent in the first half (7-of-30). Michigan shot 47 percent (13-of-32) and was 6-of-13 from the 3-point line, while the Huskers hit only one first-half three. Wagner had 12 first-half points, while Abdur-Rahkman added eight points. Palmer had 10 points for Nebraska, as he went 5-of-5 at the free-throw line and was the only Husker to hit more than one field goal in the opening 20 minutes.
After scoring nine of the final 10 points of the first half, Nebraska opened the second half with an alley-oop from Watson to Roby that quickly cut the lead to single digits. The Huskers trimmed the lead down to seven before Michigan used a 13-4 run to take a 53-37 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Watson then ended a streak of nine consecutive missed 3-pointers, but Michigan came right back with consecutive 3-pointers of its own to take a 61-42 lead and force a Husker timeout with 6:00 to play. Following the timeout, Roby hit four consecutive free throws and Watson knocked down his second straight 3-pointer during a 7-0 run that trimmed the lead to 12. But Nebraska would get no closer, as the Wolverines once again had an answer, scoring six straight points to stretch the lead back to 18 before cruising to the 19-point victory.
Following the loss, Nebraska will wait to learn its postseason fate when the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Sunday, March 11. The Huskers are hoping to make the tournament as an at-large selection after winning 22 games in the regular season and setting a school record with 13 conference wins while finishing fourth in the Big Ten standings.