Nebraska got blown off the court at the Crisler Arena right from the opening tip Thursday night. No. 9 Michigan (25-4, 14-4 Big Ten) bounced back from a seven-point loss to rival Michigan State its last time out with a 82-53 thrashing of Nebraska.
It’s Nebraska’s 12th loss in 16 games since the calendar flipped to 2019. The record stands at 15-14 overall, 5-13 in conference play. Up next? A date with No. 6 Michigan State on Tuesday, March 5, on the road at 6 p.m. CT.. So that will be fun.
Here are three takes from Thursday’s game.
This one was never going to be a contest.
Michigan is legitimately one of the best teams in college basketball. Head coach John Beilein’s squad boasts the fourth-best defense in the country by defensive rating. The Wolverines allow the fifth-lowest true shooting percentage in the country and give up the fewest 3s of anyone. It’s a defense few have been able to crack this season.
But Nebraska didn’t even try. The Huskers settled for long shot after long shot after long shot and made practically none of them. The Huskers shot 9-for-35 outside the paint (26 percent) and 2-for-12 from 3 (17 percent).
If you wanted to break this game down and focus on the matchups, none favored the Huskers.
Zavier Simpson, Michigan’s lead guard, was going to be able to bully the smaller Glynn Watson Jr. on offense and more than hang with him on defense. Which played out pretty much as anyone could have expected. Watson settled for jumpers and shot 5-for-14. Simpson took two shots (making both) and carved up Nebraska’s defense with 10 assists.
Seven-foot center Jon Teske was going to be a matchup nightmare for whoever was going to try to guard him. Nebraska’s small and plays smaller. Again, the game played out as expected. Teske had 22 points and 10 rebounds on 7-for-10 shooting and 3-for-3 from outside. No one on Nebraska could force him outside his comfort zone.
Charles Matthews, Michigan’s third-leading scorer and standout perimeter defender, didn’t play, which should have meant an easier time for James Palmer Jr.
Palmer didn’t score a single point for the first 31:02 of the game and only finished with seven total.
A complete mismatch, and the Huskers will leave Ann Arbor with their worst loss of the season.
Palmer, Nebraska’s leading scorer and the fourth-best scorer in the Big Ten, missed 12 of his 15 shots against the Wolverines, got benched after a half of play and had no interest in playing defense.
That was in the second half, after he had already been benched and put back into the game. At least check the guy in transition. Don’t just let him run right past you?
Palmer garnered a spot on the midseason top-25 list for the Wooden Award, given to the best player in college basketball. It’s been downhill ever since. He’s 15-for-64 from the field in his last four games, 3-for-19 from deep, and minus-43 on the court. Meaning over the last 133 minutes he has been on the court, the Huskers have been outscored by 43 points. That’s someone who is widely regarded as their best player.
The senior’s collegiate career is quickly coming to an end and it’s looking like his senior season will be even more disappointing than his junior season. He came back for the opposite ending. You feel for him, but he’s not playing well right now.
Each of the last two times the Huskers have gone on the road, they’ve been blown out. The last time out featured a 24-point loss to Penn State, which marked the worst loss of the season to that point. The Nittany Lions shot 56 percent from the field and hit 11-for-22 from 3-point range; it was the worst defensive performance the Huskers had put up in years.
Literally the very next road game they found a way to top that.
Michigan won by 29, shot 56 percent from the field, hit 12-for-22 from deep and played three Nebraska starters off the court. Michigan averaged 1.24 points per possession, an absolutely ridiculous number.
For most of the game, ESPN’s commentary crew absolutely tore into the Husker players. While head coach Tim Miles won’t and shouldn’t skate by, the Husker players are at fault in this collapse as well.
Nebraska looks like it doesn’t want to defend. Nebraska looks like it doesn’t want to box out. (Michigan won the boards 43-31 and scored 34 points in the paint.) Nebraska looks like it doesn’t care whether its coach loses his job.
The road defense has been a mess all season long, and while no one expected the Huskers to hold Michigan down, defense is all about effort.
This is about pride at this point.
Play with some.
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.