While the season did not go as planned for the Huskers, a solid run in the Big Ten Tournament netted Nebraska a four seed in the NIT. They would face the Butler Bulldogs, a mainstay in the real tournament, but fell short this season.
The game is being played in Lincoln in front of a full crowd at PBA, with the crowd hitting 10,103. Pretty remarkable for a team facing a likely coaching change (Tim Miles to likely Fred Hoiberg) and an underwhelming season, to go along with the flooding all throughout the state. Speaking of, if you want to learn more about how to help those affected, please follow that hyperlink. With five scholarship players and two walk-ons available, it would be a tough task for Miles and company.
The game started out with a quick Butler basket that was answered by Isaiah Roby. What came next was a 12-point run for the Bulldogs in the form of four straight from deep. It finally came to an end four minutes later when Roby hit a three of his own. Two and a half minutes went by until either team scored, with Roby getting two more from the charity stripe, then had a good post score next trip down. Roby had all nine Nebraska points, but Butler lead 14-9.
With 11 minutes to go, Butler was on their own four-minute scoring drought. They ended it with yet another three-pointer. The first shot made by someone not named Isaiah Roby came on a Glynn Watson, Jr. three with nine minutes to go, down 19-14. Roby cut that lead to two next trip down to stay perfect on the day, making all five of his shots.
James Palmer Jr. got on the board with a free throw, but Butler extended the lead with their sixth triple. Roby slammed it home next trip down and was followed up by a Watson three to tie the game up at 22 with under six to go. Butler ended the tie with yet another three pointer. Butler scored again, but Palmer’s and-one put the lead back down to two.
Roby made a few plays to force a few empty possessions for Butler, which led to Palmer’s two game-tying free throws, knotted up 27-27 with a minute and a half to go. They took their first lead on Palmer taking it to the bucket for two. Butler made sure it didn’t last long by hitting a three, but Roby would not be denied, throwing down a massive slam near the end of the half. Roby’s first miss came on a deep three as time expired, with the Huskers up 31-30.
Here’s the two most exciting of Roby’s 17 points of the first half:
Watson opened up the half with the scoring, but a four-point play from Paul Jorgenson on a Thor foul gave Butler the lead right back. Five straight JPJ points put the Huskers up two with 17 to go. On a Butler steal, a double technical was assessed on Watson and Aaron Thompson, who went on to lob a perfect pass for two more points and the lead. Watson wouldn’t be outdone, hitting a three on the next possession. The rivalry continued, with Thompson hitting another jumper.
Palmer kept lighting up the second with another five-point run to put Nebraska up 46-42 with 15 to go. Butler’s 7-0 run capped off with a Jorgenson three put Butler up again, 49-48 with under 12 to go. Fan favorite and Nebraska legend Johnny Trueblood got himself on the scoreboard as he scored four straight points for the Huskers to give them a three-point lead. That lead was extended to seven with by the U8 media timeout.
Over the next two minutes, only Tanner Borchardt’s technical foul could go wrong for Nebraska, as that lead got extended to 12 points. They finally broke their near-five-minute drought on back-to-back Sean McDermott three-pointers. Husker up 66-60 with four minutes left. That led shrunk to four on a Thompson and-one with three minutes to play.
Never fear Huskers, you have Johnny Trueblood. After missing a wide-open three, he got his own offensive rebound and made a tough layup to get to a career-high six points. Huskers on top 71-65. The lead shrunk yet again, as Jordan Tucker pulled the Bulldogs to within one on an and-one of his own. A little back and forth made the Huskers sweat, but a Roby layup and Watson steal and free throws with 16 seconds left meant the Huskers were up six.
Garbage-time buckets and free throws, but this game was over and the Huskers will move on. Roby had a career-high 28, Palmer and Watson added 23 and 17 a piece. Palmer even passed Tyronn Lue on the Huskers’ all-time scoring list, needing 22 next game to pass Dave Hoppen for first. Tim Miles was great and deserves this game in what is likely his last game in PBA. Great job, too, to Huskers fans. Not only did they fill up the arena, but they were active all game long. Also great job for doing this:
Again, if you want to learn more or help those in need, click here.
Huskers will take on top-seeded TCU Horned Frogs on Sunday at 8:30pm CST.
Final: Huskers 80, Butler 76