Nebraska’s season came to an end on Wednesday as the Huskers fell 66-59 at Mississippi State in the first round of the NIT. Nebraska finished 22-11 on the year.
The Huskers failed to crack the 60-point barrier for the second straight game after losing 77-58 to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Nebraska shot 35.4 percent from the field, converting just six of their 22 3-point shots while attempting just nine free throws.
James Palmer Jr. led the Huskers with 13 points and five assists but shot just 5-of-15 from the field. He finished with 568 points in his first season as a Husker, good for eighth place in school history. Isaac Copeland scored 12 points but shot 5-of-13 from the field and grabbed just two rebounds in 31 minutes. Isaiah Roby chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Huskers played from behind for all but 128 seconds as the Bulldogs took a 15-8 lead with a 9-1 during the first quarter and didn’t relinquish the lead again until the fourth quarter. The teams traded buckets in the final two minutes to give the Bulldogs a 19-12 lead after one. The Huskers shot 5-of-18 from the field in the first 10 minutes.
Nebraska opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run to tie it up but Mississippi State answered with a 3-pointer. Every time Nebraska tired to make a run, pulling within one then two, Mississippi State had an answer. At the end of the half, the Bulldogs led 33-28.
Senior guard Evan Taylor banked in a 3 from the top of the key to tie the game at 40-all three minutes into the third quarter, but Aric Holman responded with a tip-on and a 3-pointer to push Mississippi State’s lead back to five. After trading layups, both teams went even colder than they had been previously, going nearly two minutes with a single point by either team until Holman split a pair of free throws to break the spell. Isaac Copeland hit a 3-pointer for the Huskers, but Eric Wright beat the buzzer with his only bucket of the game to put the Bulldogs up 50-45 after three.
Nebraska opened the fourth with a 6-0 run to take its first lead since the first quarter at 51-50, but less than 40 seconds later Isaiah Roby picked up his fourth foul and and Mississippi State pulled ahead again with a layup.
The Bulldogs never relinquished the lead as Nebraska settled for jumpers and couldn’t knock them down. The Huskers had three chances to tie the game or take the lead with a 3-pointer and went 0-for-3. In fact, the Huskers shot 1-of-10 overall and 0-of-5 from deep over the course of the next 5:15 as Mississippi State stretched its lead to high with 1:45 to go.
The Huskers scored a few times late, but it was too little, too late to mount a comeback.
Holman led all players with 16 points and 10 rebounds off the Mississippi State bench. Abdul Ado added 15 points and nine boards and Xavian Stapleton recorded 12 points and five rebounds. Point guard Lamar Peters dished out 14 assists, picking apart Nebraska’s pick-and-roll defense all game long and finding his big men around the basket or shooters on the perimeter for open looks.
Anton Gill scored seven points, Taylor finished with three and Duby Okeke scored two in their final game as Huskers.
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.