The Nebraska Cornhuskers went to Iowa City looking for a season sweep of hated rival Iowa Sunday and, for the first time in program history as a Big Ten member, got it in a thrilling 81-77 victory. It also helped clinch the No. 11 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, the highest the Huskers will have reached since the 2018 tournament when the team earned the No. 5 seed.
The win also moved Nebraska to 16-15 overall, the first season above .500 since 2018-2019 when UNL finished 16-15 (culminating in an overtime win in Lincoln over the Hawkeyes). UNL also improved to 9-11 in Big Ten action, its best finish since going 13-5 in 2017-2018. Iowa dropped to 29-3 overall and 11-9 in league play.
SWEPT THE IO_A HA_KEYES. pic.twitter.com/jtnZSweMkX— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) March 5, 2023
In his final regular season game as a Husker, senior guard Sam Griesel came up huge with 16 points to lead Nebraska in scoring to go along with six rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Griesel finished 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 6-of-10 overall from the field.
Jamarques Lawrence was hot on his heals with 15 points, catching lighting in a bottle to tie the freshman 3-point record with five. Lawrence finished 5-of-8 from deep with five boards and four helpers. C.J. Wilcher added 12 points and a steal along with 11 points by Keisei Tominaga. Derrick Walker led in both rebounds (12) and assists (8) while adding nine points.
Iowa’s Patrick McCaffery led all scorers with 23 on 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range, while Kris Murray added 22 and Filip Rebraca scored 10.
Nebraska got on the board first with an early 3-pointer by Lawrence. Iowa tied it up right away, but the Huskers put in the work and led by as much as nine coming off the first media timeout thanks to a jumper by Wilcher with 13:25 left. The Hawkeyes managed to mount a 10-0 run to take its first lead of the game, up 21-18 just over three minutes later.
This one stayed close throughout as Iowa was only able to lead by as much as five, up 33-28 before Nebraska responded with an 8-0 run to seize it back, up 36-33 with 2:44 left. Iowa tied it up right away and pushed its lead out to six in the closing moments thanks to a 3-pointer by Murray before a turnaround jumper by Griesel with just six seconds left cut the deficit to 43-39 to head into the locker room.
Grisel finished the first half with 14 of his 16 points while Tominaga had 11. Despite giving up 12 points to Iowa off eight turnovers (coughing it up 22.6% of possessions, a statistic that only got worse in the second), the Huskers only trailed by four.
The second half was one of the more grittier performances by a gritty Nebraska team. The Huskers were able to tie it up twice and never let Iowa push it past five (the Hawkeyes did so three times) in the first seven minutes of the second half. When Iowa finally broke out to a seven point lead, up 62-55 at the 11:43 mark, Nebraska responded with a 5-0 run to trim it back to 62-60.
Neither team could shake the other down the stretch, with the Huskers retaking the lead three times over the next roughly five minutes of regulation. When UNL retook the lead with 5:53 remaining, up 73-71 on a Lawrence 3-pointer, the visitors would never give it up again. The Hawkeyes were only able to tie it up twice thanks to a pair of free throws, but prior to that a layup by Murray with 6:12 would mark the final field goal for Iowa of the game.
Meanwhile, Nebraska finished the game going 5-of-7 on field goals, though ended with a 2:33. Iowa, meanwhile, went cold with just 1-of-10 to close it out, but 0-of-7 to end it and no field goals for the final 6:12. A trey by Wilcher with 2:33 pushed UNL’s lead out to five, up 80-75, but the Hawkeyes hoped to perform a second miracle the likes of which the home team managed even more impressively just eight days before in the same arena. Insert Sam Hoiberg for this one folks.
Sam Hoiberg draws the charge on the drive from Connor McCaffery.— Ben Stevens (@BenScottStevens) March 5, 2023
Block or Charge? You decide. pic.twitter.com/xmZdyaZt1j
The coach’s son came up with the play of the game to prevent the opponent’s coach’s son from keeping Iowa’s chances alive in the closing minute. Nebraska overcame giving up a total of 21 points off 15 turnovers to still manage the win and spoil senior day for the hated rival across the river.
The Huskers will take on No. 14 seed Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday. The game will tip off approximately 25 minutes after the 12-13 seed matchup that started at 5:30 p.m. Central Time. The winner of the matchup will take on the six seed, who is probably still to be determined at time of publishing.
After all, Northwestern leads Rutgers 61-46 right now and a win means the Wildcats will be the No. 2 seed instead of No. 9. Yes, you just read that right for how absurd the standings are in the league this year.