While a Husker loss to the 9th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers was expected, the first 15 minutes of Nebraska’s 2020-21 Big Ten opener were anything but. Strong early defense bought Nebraska a double-digit first half lead, but the Badgers found their shot and cruised to a comfortable 67-53 victory in Madison on Tuesday night.
Wisconsin (7-1) started slow, making only one of their first 17 shots from the field. That allowed the Huskers (4-4) to take a 21-11 lead deep into the first half. Junior guard Teddy Allen nailed a couple early threes, but also picked up three early fouls.
The last five minutes of the period belonged to Wisconsin, hitting four straight shots as part of a 14-0 run and keying their 25-24 halftime lead. The 25 first half points given up is a season-best for the Big Red, having just allowed 26 to Doane in their previous contest.
Opening the second half, Wisconsin fumbled a rebound out of bounds and threw away a pass on their next possession. But they would not repeat their woeful ways for long, growing their advantage to 32-26. Junior Trey McGowens shot the Huskers back into a brief lead, 33-32, with a 3-ball at the 14-minute mark, capping a 7-0 Husker run.
After a timeout, Wisconsin reminded Nebraska why they are a top ten team. Brad Davison led a 16-0 run with a pair of threes, giving the Badgers a 48-33 advantage. Nebraska didn’t have an answer offensively, shooting just 33% from the field and 30% from deep. NU didn’t get closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
Leading the Big Red in scoring was sophomore Dalano Banton with 15 points, adding eight rebounds and four assists. Allen added 11, and, like Banton, hit 3-5 from 3-point range. The two have reached double figures together in all eight games this season. McGowens added 10 points, and sophomore big man Yvan Ouedraogo grabbed six points and six boards.
Head coach Fred Hoiberg no doubt loved his team’s defensive intensity early on, with Wisconsin having more turnovers than made baskets for almost the entire first half. That pace proved to be unsustainable, as the Badgers finished 21-38 from the floor, a 64% clip.
Nebrasketball is staring down a gauntlet within a gauntlet to begin their conference slate, taking on four ranked Big Ten opponents over 12 days. This was merely a taste of the competition level to come in the toughest conference in college hoops.
The Huskers are back on the floor, and back home at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, on Christmas day against No. 19 Michigan at 5 p.m. CST.