Another disappointing road loss against Wisconsin this past Tuesday, means another game was added to the winless road record for the Huskers, coming into this game at 0-6. Today they had to face the daunting task of traveling across country to a sold-out RAC, and a ranked Rutgers.
Last time these teams played each other came in the first games of January, with Nebraska taking control early, but eventually falling to the Scarlet Knights physical prowess down low. This game? Nebraska took control early again.
After missing their first two three attempts. Nebraska made their next three courtesy of one Thorir Thorbjarnarson hammer strike and two Cam Mack arrows, taking an early 9-2 lead and a Steve Pikiell timeout. So much of Nebraska’s games have been dictated by the start of games, and playing off that positive emotion is when we see the Huskers at their best.
Naturally Rutgers didn’t let that lead last long, driving to the hoop for back to back and-ones, and drawing two fouls on Mack by the U16 Media Timeout. When Mack came out Nebraska had to rely on Charlie Easley, and the walk-on now turned scholarship player came up big.
Easley hit a three right away and showed confidence from behind the arc fans haven’t seen yet this year, throwing up another two threes without hesitation. Now he didn’t make those, but still, a true freshman having the green light in a road game like this one could be huge for the future.
With the help of Easley and Jervay Green, Nebraska went neck and neck with Rutgers without Mack, shooting 5-11 from three without him, and staying close with them in paint points, something Rutgers dominated last game. However as the Huskers began to miss shots late in the first half, Rutgers turned long rebounds into transition points, with an alley-oop to take a 30-23 lead and a Hoiberg timeout.
How did Nebraska respond? An 8-0 run by running the ball and getting to the foul line, matching Rutgers in the paint once again. A couple bad possessions however allowed Rutgers to take a five point lead into the half, a 38-33 lead. A five point deficit at half without Mack and Dachon Burke for most of it? Pretty impressive and a good sign for the future.
On to the second half, and Rutgers came out of the gates pumped, taking it to the paint with ease, and contesting Nebraska threes. Not only could Nebraska not hit from deep, but also Myles Johnson was a menace down low, preventing any drives Nebraska attempted.
As Rutgers began to control the paint, Nebraska would score one every three possessions, and all the sudden Rutgers has a double digit lead at the U12 Media Timeout, leading 60-49. Thankfully the Icelandic God kept this game close, having been 5-6 from deep at this point in the game.
A Rutgers 60-49 lead? Yeah that turned into a 67-62 Nebraska lead. The lineup of Mack, Thor, Easley, Green, and Yvan Ouedraogo made that happen. Cam Mack did Cam Mack things, completely taking over, but let’s not count out the others. Thor used his European roots making a behind the back dribble move into layup, Easley made two clutch free throws and played tenacious defense, and Green. Green played so well. He was everywhere on defense, and was constantly in motion on offense. Could they hold on to the lead?
(At this point in the article I became too stressed to write during the game so the rest was written in retrospect).
Wow. What a game. Watching Geo Baker and Cam Mack go at it head to head was electric, and overall a very fun game to watch.
Nebraska took a lead 72-66 with about two minutes to go, and Geo Baker took over. Rutgers finished the game on a 9-0 run, making three straight threes while obviously, Nebraska went scoreless to close out the game. Nebraska had a chance to take a three point lead when Thor drove to the lane and kicked it out to Easley for a corner three, unfortunately Easley couldn’t connect. Rutgers wins 75-72.
This loss stings, but what an effort from this team. The resiliency, the grit, the fight. I can’t remember the last time I was that drawn into a Nebraska basketball game, maybe when we lost to Kansas at home two seasons ago. We move on. Michigan at home this Tuesday, hopefully a better result.