It is a tough feat to beat the same team three times in a single season, even when that team is the conference bottom feeder. The Nebraska Cornhuskers had to experience that reality the hard way Wednesday night in Chicago as the team that led the Big Ten with comeback wins this season (5) when trailing at halftime — and the squad that won five of its final six games — fell 78-75 to the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Huskers close out the 2022-2023 season with a 16-16 record overall and 9-11 mark in Big Ten play. The loss almost certainly guarantees that the team with not earn a bid to the NIT and thus the offseason begins for this team. The Gophers advance to the second round to take on Maryland tomorrow night in the second round and will soon follow.
FINAL | Nebraska 75, Minnesota 78— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) March 9, 2023
Keisei Tominaga led Nebraska in scoring with 23 points, going 2-of-6 from 3-point range, but a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Sam Griesel finished with a double-double in his final game as a Husker, scoring 16 and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds, while finishing second in assists with four.
Derrick Walker led the team in helpers with five while added 12 points alongside Jamarques Lawrence who also had 12. C.J. Wilcher scored eight while grabbing a team-high two steals.
Minnesota’s Dawson Garcia led all scorers with 18 points.
Nebraska got on the board first and made the most of it early in this one, jumping out to an 8-0 lead thanks in part to four Minnesota turnovers early in the game. Lawrence capped off the run with an and-one opportunity following the first media timeout with 15:41 remaining. Minnesota responded with its own 9-2 run to cut it to 10-9 Huskers with 12:36 left.
Soon thereafter, the Gophers were able to first tie it up, and then seize the lead. Jamarques Lawrence hit a trey to quickly take it back, but Garcia hit his own 3-pointer in response to retake the lead 18-16 with 8:32 remaining. Minnesota never looked back in terms of being ahead. By the 3:11 mark, the Gophers pushed the lead out to nine, but the Huskers cut to to just four heading into the locker room. A layup by Sam Hoiberg with :33 to go made it 37-33.
The second half seemed like it might get away from Nebraska as Minnesota was able to push its lead to double-digits three times, leading 50-39 at its highest margin with 15:54 left in the game. Then a pair of free throws by Hoiberg kicked off a 6-0 run that cut it to 52-48 Gophers at the 13:06 mark.
The Huskers just couldn’t get over the hump and make it a one score game, though, until Jamison Battle got called for his fifth foul with 9:01 left in the game. It was not a great call, big surprise from Big Ten officials who have had a bad year all-around, and Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson had a lot to say about it. He had so much so say, in fact, he got called for a technical. The Huskers sunk all four free throws to make it a three point game, trailing 60-57.
Despite the advantage of Minnesota losing Battle, Nebraska was only able to cut the lead to one three separate times over the final nine minutes of regulation and never retook the lead. To add insult to misery, key offensive possessions late in the game saw Lawrence not remotely set for a screen to draw the offensive foul and Griesel lose the ball in a hard fought attempt to try and salvage his lone season at his dream school. It was a miserable loss at the end of the night.
On a side note, I am also bidding my farewell to Corn Nation with my final game recap. I transitioned to the Rivals network covering MSU back in December and stuck around to finish the Huskers’ season. I owe a big thanks to Patrick and Jon for taking a chance on me. I may have one more article left looking at the state of the program if time allows, but in case not, adios.
Nebraska will have plenty to figure out during the offseason as it looks to fill out its roster with key departing players. The team will be playing in Spain this summer and will tip off its next season on, or after, Nov. 6, 2023. In the meantime, enjoy the March Madness.