For 10 minutes, it looked like Nebraska had started to figure some things out. Then the other 30 minutes happened and fans saw more of the same as the Huskers fell to No. 21 Wisconsin 61-48 at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Wednesday night.
The Huskers held the Badgers to 32.3% shooting including 28.1% from deep, but Wisconsin took 13 more shots thanks to 17 Nebraska turnovers (compared to Wisconsin’s eight) and a plus-two advantage in offensive rebounds.
Nebraska shot 36.7% from the field and 5-of-15 from 3 despite connecting on their first four attempts from the arc. The Huskers also missed 10 of their 17 free-throw attempts.
“I’ll say this: our defense for the third straight game has held our opponent under 40%,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Thirty-two percent, you should win that game. We missed 10 more free throws again tonight; I don’t know what to say any more about that. We work on it, we talk about it, but we’re just not going out there with any confidence and we’re leaving free points on the board, and that’s deflating. It’s deflating when that happens, it’s deflating when you miss the easy ones and it’s deflating when you turn the ball over like we did after that great start.
“Again, I’ll say this: our effort has been really good. The three games we’ve played since the shut-down, I’m really happy with how hard we’re going out and playing. But we’re just not playing very smart right now.”
Teddy Allen returned to the starting lineup after a DNP-CD against Minnesota on Monday and scored 12 points while shooting 3-of-5 from 3 and turning the ball over five times. Lat Mayen led the Huskers with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-of-6 from deep) and seven rebounds. Mayen has scored in double figures in all three of Nebraska’s games since its return to competition.
“You see how important it is to have Lat on the floor,” Hoiberg said. “He picked up the two quick [fouls] in Minnesota. We got him back in there and he unfortunately got his third right away. Second half, you saw what he did. I think he had 13 of his 15 in the second half. The game against Indiana right before the break, he hits five 3s and that just loosens things up for everybody.
“Tonight he goes out and he hits shots right out of the gate, and I thought he had some other good looks in the second half. I thought we got the ball to him with space where he got some good open shots, and we’ll take those all day long with him. He’s such a good shooter and he works on it extremely hard.”
Dalano Banton was Nebraska’s third-leading scorer with six points on 2-of-9 from the field (0-3 from 3) and 2-of-4 from the line. He also led the team with 10 rebounds and five assists.
Six Badgers scored between eight and 10 points led by freshman guard Jonathan Davis.
Nebraska played some of its best basketball of the season to open the game, recording an assist on each of its first eight buckets. The huskers used a 12-0 run including a dunk and a 3 by Mayen to take a 22-14 lead early.
After some great teamwork early, the offense dried up as shots stopped falling and decision-making became questionable. Wisconsin navigated through its own offensive issues to outscore the Huskers 16-5 the rest of the half.
Wisconsin pulled ahead 27-25 before Banton converted a tough push shot in the lane, snapping a streak of six straight missed field goals stretching back to the Mayen 3 that put Nebraska up 20-14.
After three straight empty possessions, Nebraska grabbed a rebound with about 35 seconds to go. The Huskers ran down the clock but Mayen turned the ball over with about 7 seconds to go, leading to a transition 3 at the buzzer for Aleem Ford to give Wisconsin a 30-27 lead at halftime.
The Huskers turned the ball over 12 times, missed their last four 3s (after hitting their first four) and shot 43.5% overall in the first half. Wisconsin shot 30.3% from the field including 5-of-19 from 3 but took nine more field goals and two more free throws because of Nebraska turnover woes.
“The first probably nine minutes of that game is exactly what we have stressed these last several days,” Hoiberg said. “With all the turnovers that we’ve had, the problems with I think 18 in the first two games was moving the ball and trusting and making the right plays and making the right reads, and I thought we did that as well as we have all year. That’s exactly what the system looks like when you go out and you score eight baskets and you get eight assists on those plays.
“I think we had 10 assists at halftime and three in the second; the movement just wasn’t the same and then we started trying to go on our own and driving into the pile again and turning the damn ball over. It’s got to come to a point where it clicks.”
Nebraska committed six fouls before the first media timeout, three of them by Allen who took a seat with four. The first field goal of the half came at the 16:50 mark, a corner 3 by Davis. Wisconsin took its largest lead at 39-29 on a Trice triple five minutes into the half.
Nebraska’s offensive woes continued throughout the half as Wisconsin built up its lead to 16 at 55-39 with just over five minutes to play. Nebraska shot 5-of-21 from the field (0-of-5 from 3) and 2-of-5 from the foul line with four turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the half.
Nebraska finally found a little success with a 7-0 run featuring layups by McGowens and Mayen and a 3 by Allen, but it was far too little and way too late.
The Huskers will get one day to review the film and try to find a solution to their offensive woes before returning to the floor at Pinnacle Bank Arena to face No. 6 Illinois. Tipoff on Friday is set for 8 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.