Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Erase 17-Point Deficit, Beat Wisconsin 73-63 in Overtime

February 11, 2023

Keisei Tominaga came through again.

Two games after his 30 points led the Huskers to a win over Penn State at home, the junior guard scored 17 of his 22 points after halftime to help Nebraska come back from a 17-point deficit and beat Wisconsin in overtime.

After the Badgers went up 17, he hit four threes in a span of under five minutes. The last finished off a 20-2 run and gave Nebraska its first lead of the game.

“We started running really complicated offense,” Husker head coach Fred Hoiberg said postgame. “I said, ‘Just go find Keisei and screen him.’ And that’s what got him going, it got him open and got us back into the game.”

The deficit was built with Husker turnovers and strong shooting from the opposition. Nebraska’s first possession ended with the first of eight Derrick Walker turnovers, and the team struggled to create good looks early. It did score four points in the first four minutes, off an offensive rebound and layup from Walker and a Jamarques Lawrence fastbreak bucket following a Wisconsin turnover.

Still, the Badgers controlled the opening half. Four of their first six makes were threes, including two from Max Klesmit as they built a 16-10 lead. After Wisconsin went up 10, Nebraska pulled off a 9-0 run that was capped by Tominaga’s first three of the game. That differential lasted for 12 seconds. Connor Essegian hit a jumper to start a 13-3 run, and he ended it with a three on his team’s last possession of the half. Nebraska’s final possession before the break was a travel.

Klesmit and Essegian combined for 18 first-half points, making four of their six attempts from deep. Chucky Hepburn — the Nebraska native who was booed every time he touched the ball — added nine points on 10 shots.

The opening minutes of the second half were even more disastrous for the Huskers. Walker turned it over on their first two possessions of the half, and a Hepburn three two-and-a-half minutes in put Wisconsin up 17. The three came off an offensive rebound, one where Wilhelm Breidenbach took a hit to the head and fell to the ground injured. Breidenbach, who made his second start of the year in the game, didn’t return, although Hoiberg assured postgame he’d be alright moving forward.

Walker was pulled in favor of Blaise Keita after the aforementioned second turnover of the half. He came back in after Breidenbach’s injury, and then turned it over again. That led to a bucket that put Wisconsin back up 17 two possessions after a Sam Griesel layup.

“I was horrible. I don’t know how many turnovers I had but it was too many,” Walker said postgame. “To start out the first half I had turnovers and started out the second half with turnovers and it’s just silly, stupid turnovers that I need to control and not let happen because that not only affects me, it affects everyone on my team.”

At that point, with over 16 minutes left in regulation, Tominaga showed up. He hit back-to-back threes off assists from Griesel, those dimes surpassing the team’s first-half assist total of one. Klesmit hit a jumper prior to a media timeout, but Nebraska’s momentum didn’t stop. Walker made a layup, then Griesel scored four points in a row. Keita, now alongside Walker in the frontcourt, pulled down a defensive rebound, then an offensive one less than 10 seconds later. He put it back up and in to cut the deficit to five.

Following a Wisconsin timeout and missed threes for the Badgers, Tominaga hit back-to-back shots from long range again to take the lead. The first was heavily contested, with the guard receiving a low and late pass from Walker before pulling and draining it anyway.

The rest of regulation was a back-and-forth affair. Hepburn answered Tominaga’s three to take the lead with one of his own to take it back. He made two more big shots down the stretch, one which put Wisconsin in front again and one which tied the game. The later was the final points of regulation, with 2:44 left in the second half.

Nebraska went to Walker on the last possession, who was blocked at the rim by Steven Crowl. Wisconsin went to Hepburn, who ran the clock down before taking a deep stepback three over Lawrence that missed.

“Chucky takes and makes big shots,” Hoiberg said. “Ball was in his hands obviously, and I thought we did a good job of staying square.”

Wisconsin made the first shot of overtime, but that was it for the Badgers. Tominaga tied it with a scoop layup, then Walker scored six points in a row to give the Huskers the lead. Tominaga essentially put the game away, hitting two free throws to give Nebraska an eight-point lead with 1:07 remaining.

While that offensive success was important, the team also made major defensive plays. Keita came up with a steal by forcing a jump ball after Tominaga tied the game and drew a charge after Walker took the lead. Sam Hoiberg added another takeaway, running along the baseline to take the ball out of the hands of Crowl below the basket.

Keita, playing 23 minutes after halftime, received the game ball from Fred Hoiberg. The sophomore forward recorded two points, 10 rebounds and two steals. The coach joked that he gave the game ball to Walker for “sucking so bad” that Keita needed to sub in early in the second half. Both made major plays down the stretch to bring about the victory.

The 17-point comeback was the team’s biggest in a decade, and the largest second-half comeback since the 1996-97 season.

“The fun part for I think everybody was just how into it the bench [was], the crowd, the crowd was absolutely phenomenal today, and It’s why you do it,” Hoiberg said. “We talk to our team all the time about there are gonna be runs, there is gonna be adversity and you need to fight through it.”

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