Somehow, some way, Nebraska (17-8, 8-4 Big Ten) ground out a major win on the road against Wisconsin (10-13, 3-7 Big Ten). The Huskers were down as many as 11 in the second half, and pulled out a 74-63 victory.
Here's three takeaways from the evening.
Free Throws, Kids
Wisconsin big Ethan Happ tried to bury Nebraska early. The junior forward had 18 points by intermission and it didn’t look like the Huskers were going to be able to slow him down.
Happ practically single-handedly fouled out the Huskers’ big-man rotation and took 19 shots from the charity stripe. Starting center Isaiah Roby fouled out in 17 minutes of scoreless play. Center Jordy Tshimanga fouled out. Forward Isaac Copeland had four personal fouls. When Tim Miles tried to steal some minutes in the first half with center Duby Okeke, Okeke rewarded his head coach with three fouls in 4 minutes.
But here’s the thing, Happ took 19 freebies, Wisconsin took 31 as a team and the Huskers made more on fewer shots. Down the stretch, the Huskers just kept putting Happ on the line because he couldn’t make them.
Nebraska was 24-for-28 from the line while the Badgers were 16-for-31. Nebraska shot 85 percent, Wisconsin shot 52 percent. Happ missed 11 all by himself. He finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists — a line that will look good in the box score — but Happ should have had 30 points. He should have been able to give the Badgers a lead.
Wisconsin should have won. Instead, it missed 15 free throws and lost by 11. Work on those free throws kids.
Professional Bucket Getter
Free throws were killer, but guard James Palmer Jr. had just as much to do with Nebraska pulling out a much-needed win in Madison, their first since 1990 by the way, as anything.
We’ve reached a point with the Miami transfer where it’s just not surprising anymore. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said after the Huskers’ win on Saturday that Palmer was a “marked man” and still scoring. He was a marked man again Monday evening and it didn’t matter. He struggled early but, as professional scorers do, turned it on late when Nebraska needed him.
Palmer finished with 28 points, 21 in the second half. He was an efficient 6-of-11 shooting in the final 20 minutes of play and added one more bullet point to his All-Big Ten resume.
Copeland, Tshimanga and guard Glynn Watson kept the Huskers afloat in the first half as Palmer tried to find his rhythm, but it was Palmer that took the lead late.
5 minutes into the second half, James Palmer Jr. had 7 points on 2-10 FG (0-6 3FG) and 3-3 FT.
The rest of the way, he scored 21 points on 6-9 FG (1-2 3FG) and 8-9 FT. #Nebrasketball
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) January 30, 2018
Let’s Just Not Leave Home
Nebraska got the win. Good. The defense was again solid. Also good. But the 74 points should be taken with a grain of salt. That number was inflated by the Badgers fouling and trying to get back in the game late. Eighteen of the final 22 points the Huskers scored came at the foul line.
Here’s something ugly that doesn’t seem to be going away. In 13 home games this season, the Huskers are averaging 79 points a pop and shooting 46.9 percent from the floor, 36.6 percent from 3-point range. When the Huskers have ventured out into enemy territory, the offense has not come along.
In nine road games, Nebraska is shooting 37 percent from the field, 32 percent from three and scoring just 64.1 a game. They go from a near-top-50 scoring offense to what would be No. 339 in the country. Out of 351 programs
Nebraska missed its first five shots against the Badgers Monday night. Wisconsin stretched its lead to 10 midway through the second half before the Huskers fought back, but they did it with defense and transition scoring opportunities, not efficient offense. The half-court offense was ugly all night long.
The Huskers finished at 41 percent shooting and 21 percent from 3-point range. The lock-down ability of the defense is great, but Nebraska has to figure out a way to get some offense going away from home. They're on the road again next Tuesday, Feb. 6, against Minnesota.
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.