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Huskers Stand Tall vs. Badgers, in Big Ten Race

It was a night that will live in the memory of Nebraska basketball fans for decades to come. The moment wasn't too big. The atmosphere was one of legend, everything college sports is supposed to be. And the Huskers siezed the opportunity. After Ohio State knocked off Michigan State in the afternoon, the Huskers had only one path to the first round bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Win. And win they did, trading blow for blow with the Wisconsin Badgers to pull out the win, 77-68.

Eric Francis

These are nights that you dream of. As a fan, as a coach as a player, nights like this are why you cheer for a team. This is why players bust their hump in the summer when no one is watching. This is why coaches work endless hours and blow through cocktail napkins drawing up plays. This is why you pour your heart and soul and hard earned money into being a fan. For nights like this. With everything on the line, with the entire college basketball world's attention focused squarely on you, with an entire fanbase pouring every ounce of energy into making as much noise as possible, to stake your claim that you belong. To erase any doubt that Nebraska can play with the best in the Big Ten. With the bright lights shining and the BTN cameras focused on the Huskers and the pundits tuned in, the Huskers seized the opportunity. They stood their ground when Wisconsin weathered the storm and punched back. They erased any lingering doubt that they belonged. They belong. Get you're dancing shoes out of the closet. Shine 'em up, Nebrasketball, you've got a spot on the dance floor.

Somewhere between defeating Indiana on Wednesday night and Sunday evening when this one tipped off, the Husker coaches called for "No Sit Sunday". Under no circumstances were Husker fans to sit down during the game. And they responded to the challenge. All around the jam-packed Pinnacle Bank Arena they stood. Even in the front row of the upper decks where no one could remotely obstruct their views did they stand. And they yelled and swore. They celebrated wildly anticipating the moment that many have been waiting to participate in for 16 years. They gave the team a standing ovation as they came off the floor during warmups. They roared when Mike Peltz dropped to a knee, the only exception the the "No Sitting" mandate to propose to his girlfriend. They were silent only for the national anthem. They drowned out the introductions of the Wisconsin players with the familiar chant of "Husker Power".  Then the game started. They reached a full crecendo after the Huskers opened up a 10-3 lead, clearly not backing down from the moment. Never has a crowd been more involved an supporting a Nebraska basketball team. This is the stuff of legend.

In the process, another legend is budding. Shavon Shields carries a big name at the University of Nebraska, son of one of the greatest football players in the history of the program, Will Shields, he has developed into one of the best players on the team. When Big Ten teams started taking away Terran Petteway, Shields answered the call. Tonight he led the charge, attacking the Wisconsin defense and causing havoc for the Badgers from beginning to end.  Shields had some help. Terran Petteway, after a handful of relatively sluggish outputs from him, returned to the top line, along with Shields, pouring in 26. The third sophomore of the trio, Walter Pitchford hit back-to-back massive threes in the second half to build the Husker lead to 10, blowing the roof off the building.

These are high times for Nebraska basketball. It wasn't long ago, this season even, that the thought of making it to the NCAA tournament would have been a punchline to a joke rather than a reality punctuated by the best atmosphere in college basketball this year. We'll know for sure this time next week what the Huskers fate will be. This ride isn't over yet for the Huskers. They've given themselves every opportunity to do what has never been done before for this program. Next up is the Big Ten Tournament where they will just be spectators for the first day of the tournament for the first time since 1998, also the last time they made the NCAA tournament. On Friday they will face the winner of the Ohio State vs. Purdue Thursday afternoon. But first, they had to stake their claim and stand up to the big boys. And stand up they did. For the entire game.