Photo Credit: Nebraska Media Relations

Huskers Fall to Red-Hot Wolverines in Ann Arbor

February 08, 2023

A red-hot start for Michigan proved to be too much for Nebraska to overcome on the road as the Wolverines handed the Huskers a 93-72 loss Wednesday.

Michigan shot 75% from the field through the first 13 minutes to build a 24-point lead, too big of a hole for the Huskers to climb out of despite multiple big pushes in the last 27 minutes.

“It was all about the start,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said during his postgame radio interview. “We just didn’t come out with the edge that we needed. We fought them after that, but unfortunately, it was just too late.”

Michigan shot 57.6% from the field including 53.8% from 3 (14-for-26) with six players reaching double-digit points led by freshman Jett Howard’s 22. Almost all of Hunter Dickinson’s 16 points and 10 rebounds came in the second half as others carried the lead for the first 15 minutes of the game.

“It’s all about them being comfortable,” Hoiberg said. “We allowed them to be comfortable and get into too good of a rhythm. And you know how it is, when you’re confident, you have a confident team out there on the floor, when you’re knocking down shots … You see it with our free throws, we miss a couple early and it’s generally a tough night. We’ve got to find a way to get past that. When teams get confident, it’s tough to shut shut them off.”

Tominaga followed up the bast game of his career with the second-best, finishing with a game-high 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting (4-of-8 from 3) with two assists and no turnovers. Derrick Walker stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, a career-high eight assists and seven rebounds. 

Nebraska shot a respectable 48.3% from the field including 35% from 3 (7-for-20) and only turned the ball over eight times, but the Huskers also shot 9-for-17 from the foul line and had no answer for Michigan on the defensive end.

“We’re playing better on that [offensive] end,” Hoiberg said. “You look at our percentages, I think the last five we were about that same percentage we shot tonight, about 48% … It’s all about defense for us right now. We did a better job, we’re taking care of the ball. It’s under 10 turnovers in two consecutive games, over a two-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio; that has to continue. We have to value every possession and value the ball. It’s just getting back to finding a way to string together stops, and we can do it. I know we’re capable of it.”

The teams went back and forth early on with six lead changes and a tie in the first six minutes. Howard and Tominaga each knocked down a pair of 3s early to pace their teams.

However, Nebraska mistakes fueled a Michigan run as the Wolverines hit six straight shots and ripped off a 14-0 run in just over two minutes of game time. Nebraska turned the ball over on four straight possessions before C.J. Wilcher knocked down a 3 from the top of the key to get Nebraska back in the scoring column.

The Wilcher 3 proved to only be a minor interruption as the Michigan onslaught continued with two more 3s and a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 33-15 before a layup from Tominaga on a cut to the basket.

Michigan continued to pour it on as Duke transfer Joey Baker scored eight straight including back-to-back 3s to give Michigan its largest lead yet at 41-17. The Wolverines hit 15 of their first 20 shots including eight 3s.

“We talked about it all week, about coming out with an edge after maybe your most complete game — certainly since the injuries — against Penn State, you have to be better out of the out of the gate and they were too comfortable, our contests weren’t spirited and we dug ourselves a 24-point hole,” Hoiberg said.

The Wolverines finally started to cool off, leading to an 8-0 Nebraska run before Dickinson scored his first points at the 4:02 mark on a dunk. Nebraska continued to chip away at the deficit the rest of the half, and a late Sam Hoiberg 3 made it 46-34 at the break. The Wolverines turned the ball over six times in the last five minutes of the half.

Nebraska managed to regain some offensive rhythm down the stretch to shoot 46.2% from the field including 5-of-8 from 3 and scored 14 points in the paint. Tominaga led the way with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting including 3-of-4 from deep. Walker had eight points and five assists after a slow start trying to score against Michigan’s interior length.

Michigan shot 68% from the field in the half including 8-of-14 from 3 and only scored two fewer points in the paint than Nebraska.

Walker opened the second half with a personal 5-2 spurt to cut the deficit to nine, but Michigan responded with an 18-6 run over the next six and a half minutes to stretch it back to 21.

Nebraska continued to battle, however, using an 11-0 run featuring seven points from Griesel and four from Wilcher to pull within striking distance. 

The teams traded buckets for a stretch, then Michigan delivered the knockout blow with a 12-0 run to use it back to 23 and it stayed there the rest of the way.

Both teams shot 50% from the field in the second half, but Michigan hit four more 3s and three more free throws to offset Nebraska doubling up the Wolverines in the paint after halftime, 28 to 14.

“We’re going to keep competing, I know that,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve got to bring it in our home arena and our fans have been phenomenal for us. They were as good as they’ve been all year against Penn State the other day. We’re going to come back, start preparing tomorrow, and that’s the big message in the locker room. We got to find a way tomorrow, put it behind us, learn from it and start preparing for Wisconsin.”

Nebraska will look to get back to its defensive roots on Saturday as Wisconsin visits Pinnacle Bank Arena for the team’s only meeting of the regular season.

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