The Nebraska Cornhuskers’s first game at Pinnacle Bank Arena in over a calendar month saw the home team start hot with made 3s, assists, and defense all working. It was, of course, not meant to last, as Wisconsin stayed steady and let their opponent implode, leading to the seemingly inevitable 61-48 Badger victory Wednesday night in Lincoln.
NU has now dropped 25 consecutive games to Big Ten opponents dating back to their January 7, 2020 victory over Iowa, extending the school record.
The game’s first ten minutes were as clean and strong for Nebraska (4-11 overall, 0-8 Big Ten) as it has been all season against a conference opponent. An eight-point lead on 8-12 shooting, with all made buckets assisted, just three turnovers, and only one foul committed. NU even made their first two free throws. That 22-14 lead halfway through the first period was as good as it got for the Big Red.
Juniors Lat Mayen and Teddy Allen finished in double figures with 14 and 12, respectively, and Mayen added seven rebounds. Sophomore Dalano Banton scored six points with game-highs in boards with nine and assists with five.
The 21st-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (15-6, 9-5) took control by playing to their strengths of avoiding turnovers, hitting their foul shots, and defending the paint. A balanced offensive attack saw six Badgers score between 8-10 points, but it was not an efficient performance. Nebraska’s defense held Wisconsin to just 20-62 from the field, 32.3%.
Were it not for a steady diet of turnovers, the Huskers could have taken advantage of their solid defense. After just three turnovers in the first ten minutes, the floodgates opened with 14 turnovers over the remaining 30 minutes. They traveled, charged, and poorly passed their way into giving up possessions. Of their 17 turnovers, 14 came from the starters.
Fouls also dictated the game after NU’s fast start. Having been whistled for just one in the first ten minutes, Head Coach Fred Hoiberg was free to play the lineups he wanted any time. Once that halfway point of the first half hit, there were 18 called on Nebraska the rest of the way.
It really was a beautiful start offensively for the Huskers. Junior Derrick Walker found Banton cutting to the hoop from the top of the key for an easy lay-in. Allen drove the lane and had nowhere to go but kicked it out to Mayen for an in-rhythm three-pointer. Junior Trey McGowens and Banton each set up Allen for triples. Banton dished to freshman Eduardo Andre and Mayen for bunnies.
Greg Gard then called timeout; Nebraska shot 10-37 from that point on.
The Huskers just about made it to the locker room tied, but Mayen fell down on a drive with five seconds left, Tyler Wahl stole it away, passed ahead to D’Mitrik Trice, and Aleem Ford buried a three at the halftime buzzer for a 30-27 Badger lead. Coming out of the half, nobody scored for over three minutes. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Davis finally knocked down a 3 with 16:48 remaining, the teams traded layups, and Nebraska never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
Having now played three games in five days after a 27-day lay-off, Nebrasketball comes right back to PBA Friday night to take on the #6 Illinois Fighting Illini at 8:00pm. That is followed by a trip to State College, PA for a Sunday afternoon game against Penn State. Five games in nine days, baby!