The Huskers just did that. Nebraska (14-7, 5-3 Big Ten) came out scorching from the field and never cooled down, en route to a 72-52 beatdown over No. 23 Michigan (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) for a truly signature win.
Tourney Hopes Still Very Much Alive
When you’re fighting for your tournament life, you need signature wins. Nebraska had no signature wins. Now it does.
Nebraska had no wins over top-50 teams in BPI. Now it does.
And the upset looks even better than the “unranked opponent beats No. 23 team” headline you’ll see tomorrow. Michigan came into Pinnacle Bank Arena winners of nine of its last 10 games and up to No. 19 in BPI. Given that the Huskers best-looking win of the season had been Boston College, this feels huge.
The work isn’t done, though. Nebraska still needs to win a good chunk of its remaining games and knock off Ohio State in Columbus next Monday if it wants to feel safe. But celebrate tonight, this was a huge step on the march to March.
Whether this is a flash in the pan like James Palmer Jr.’s weird off night in State College — he led the way with 19 points — or the start of a hot streak remains to be seen, but the Huskers shot the lights out of Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The defense was again terrific as the Huskers forced 12 Michigan turnovers, but defense alone wasn’t going to upset a team as good as the Wolverines. Nebraska needed to bust the rut its been in for the past six games on the other end.
Consider that rut busted. The Huskers had the shooting percentage in the 60s for most of the evening, finishing at 55 percent. As a team, they only took 11 triples, drilling five of them. The bulk of the damage was instead done inside, where the Huskers had 38 points. On perhaps the best offensive night of the season, they took the fewest 3s they’ve attempted all year.
Michigan made some shots late in the second half, forced some turnovers and applied some pressure, but Nebraska kept its distance. Michigan cut the lead to 12 with just over 8 minutes to play and it felt like time for coach Tim Miles to take a timeout. He didn’t, let his team play and Palmer stretched the lead back to 17. Then Michigan took the timeout and the arena erupted.
Insane #JPJTrey has Miles FIRED UP. #Nebrasketball pic.twitter.com/tTkiSF2edR
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) January 19, 2018
Michigan never got back within 16.
The Huskers’ home crowd had a huge hand in the win, but they’ve been able to say that all year.
Right from the opening jump, Pinnacle Bank Arena — a building the Huskers have lost in once in 12 games this season — was rocking off its hinges.
Moritz Wagner, the Wolverines starting big and best player, had two points in 32 minutes and the crowd was in his head all night. With about 5 minutes to play, Miles turned to the student section behind him and motioned for some noise.
Chants of “We Want Wagner” started to rain down as he sat towards the end of the Wolverine bench.
Nebraska kept hitting shots, the decibel level kept rising. Michigan kept turning it over — 12 in the game — and the lead kept growing. We actually reached a point where fans were chanting “warm up the bus” at one of the best teams in the conference.
It was the Huskers’ night and it ended as such. Thomas Allen and Luke Gifford called for a raucous crowd. Husker fans gave it to them.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.