Nebraska’s season continued to go even further off the rails on Thursday night as the Huskers got blown out on the road against the No. 9 Michigan Wolverines, 82-53.
Nebraska (15-14, 5-13) found itself in a double-digit hole prior to the second media timeout and the Wolverines (25-4, 14-4) never let up from there as the deficit cracked 30 late in the game.
Nebraska’s four starters not named Tanner Borchardt combined for 25 points on 11-of-41 shooting and sophomore Nana Akenten led the team in scoring with 11 points off the bench. Overall, the Huskers shot 34.3 percent from the field including 2-of-12 from 3 and 5-of-9 from the foul line. James Palmer Jr. scored a season-low seven points.
The Wolverines, minus third-leading scorer Charles Matthews who was on the bench in a walking boot, shot 55.6 percent from the field including 12-of-22 from 3 and had two players crack 20 points, junior center Jon Teske (22 points and 10 rebounds) and freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis (20 points and seven rebounds).
Nebraska came up empty on its first three possessions before Palmer found Tanner Borchardt under the rim for a layup, but the Wolverines knocked down three early 3s including two by 7-foot-1 center Jon Teske and jumped out to a 13-4 lead.
Tanner Borchardt converted a three-point play for the Huskers but freshman forward Colin Castleton checked in and scored inside. The bucket was his first points in conference play; he had scored six total points before Thursday’s game.
Point guard Zavier Simpson banked in a running hook then Castelton scored two more times to give the Wolverines a 21-7 lead. Watson fouled Brazdeikis on a 3 but the freshman only hit one of the three free throws, capping a 9-0 run for Michigan.
Sophomore Nana Akenten checked in and scored back-to-back buckets — a midrange jumper and a tip-slam — to end the drought but Michigan responded with another 9-0 run to build the lead up to 20.
It didn’t get any better from there. Freshman guard Amir Harris was a bright spot for Nebraska, scoring six straight points for Nebraska, but Michigan kept scoring too during that stretch and the Huskers didn’t make any kind of dent in the deficit.
Michigan took a 43-21 lead into halftime. Brazdeikis and Teske outscored the Huskers by themselves, combining for 25 points in the first 20 minutes.
Watson, Palmer, Roby and Allen combined for six points (all by Watson) on 3-of-23 shooting including 0-of-7 from 3. Borchardt, Harris and Allen accounted for the other 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Michigan shot 17-of-26 (65.4 percent) from the field including 6-of-8 from deep in the first half. The Wolverines turned the ball over even times but Nebraska only converted them into four points on the other end.
When Nebraska took the court to start the second half, Palmer, Roby and Allen were sitting on the bench. Harris, Akenten and Thorir Thorbjarnarson started in their place and brought some more energy. Akenten scored Nebraska’s first seven points and helped the Huskers cut the deficit down to 17 with a 9-5 start to the second half.
However, Michigan responded with a 10-2 run to push the lead to 25. Freshman big man Brady Heiman was the first sub off the bench after not playing in the first half. The benched starters did not return to the court until the 12-minute mark.
The lead never dipped below 21 the rest of the way.
Miles left Akenten out there when he made the substitutions, but soon after he bit hard on a pump fake, got flipped around mid-air and hit the ground hard on his back. After staying down briefly, he went back to the locker room. Later, Allen rolled his ankle and also had to head back to the locker room, leaving the Huskers with just seven scholarship players on the bench. Neither one returned to the game.
Palmer’s first bucket came at the 8:58 mark, a 3-pointer. He scored a couple more times before Miles sent in the walk-ons and underclassmen to close out the game with the team down by 29 and less than three minutes to play. Castleton scored one more time (giving him 11 points) to push the lead to 31 with 1:24 to play.
Both walk-on guards, Johnny Trueblood and Juston Costello, got on the board with one free throw apiece to close out the game.
The Huskers will get a few days off before traveling back to Michigan to take on the league-leading Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing on Tuesday.