LINCOLN, Neb. — Sunday’s senior day game against Michigan began as a celebration of Tai Webster’s career, but the pre-game ceremony quickly became history as the Wolverines shot the lights out and handed the Huskers their worst home loss in program history.
Michigan shot 14-of-27 from downtown en route to a 93-57 drubbing in front of 14,071 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday night. To add insult to injury, Webster saw his streak of double-digit scoring games end at 30 as he checked out for good at the 3:46 mark with eight points.
The Huskers finish the season at 12-18 and 6-12 in the Big Ten, while the Wolverines improved to 20-11 and 10-8 in conference. The 12 wins are the fewest for Nebraska under Coach Tim Miles.
“Well, I want to credit Michigan, obviously,” Miles said. “I thought they were terrific, I think they ran their stuff, and obviously the way they came out and set the tone, making what felt like every shot in sight.”
“That is absolutely not the team we envisioned,” Miles continued, talking about his own squad. “I think our guys, we talked about it after last game, having a crisis of confidence, but this is beyond that. There is a defeatism almost, and some of the guys have talked about it. As soon as the first thing goes wrong, we expect the worst to happen. That’s is not competitive. That’s not a competitive mindset. That’s really gotta be our job and our M.O. here, between now and the Big Ten tournament. We have to be mentally stronger. We can’t allow those fears, worries, doubts, or whatever to creep in. It looks to me like it is a team walking around ready to get hit by lightning. That can’t be us.”
Michigan hit four of its first five 3-pointers while the Huskers turned the ball over six times and the Wolverines raced out to a 16-4 lead.
Jordy Tshimanga came off the bench and scored four straight to pull the Huskers within eight, but that was as close as they would get the rest of the night. Michigan’s lead bounced back and forth between nine and 12 until Michigan delivered a knock-out blow with a 13-2 run to stretch the lead to 20.
Nebraska closed the half with a 5-1 run to make it 45-29 Michigan heading into halftime.
Freshman Isaiah Roby started in place of sophomore Michael Jacobson and scored on the Huskers’ first possession of the second half, but Nebraska preceded to turn the ball over three times in the following 1:04 as Michigan built the lead up to 21 points.
Roby and sophomore Ed Morrow Jr. tried to provide a spark as Morrow grabbed an offensive rebound and threw down a dunk through contact for a three-point play, then Roby followed up Morrow’s miss on the next possession with a tip slam to cut it back to 16, but the rest of the game produced few highlights for the Huskers.
Michigan reeled off a 17-3 run to take its first 30-point lead of the game and cruised to the victory.
“I felt like it was kind of slipping away when we just got scored on; we couldn’t ever get a string of stops put together. It felt like, kind of like how Coach was saying, we were kind of defeated every time they made shot. It took our whole team morale down. When they started hitting shot after shot after shot, it kind of took a toll on our team as a whole.”
Michigan shot 63 percent from the field, including 14-of-27 from deep, to set a new high at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Wolverines finished with 20 assists on their 34 field goals, including a school-record 16 by senior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. He also added a game-high 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting and five steals while only turning the ball over twice in 33 minutes.
“I think you also have to look at how Derrick Walton Jr. is excellent,” Miles said. “I just voted him first-team all-league today before the game, and then had complete regret for putting karma on ourselves after that because he what got 18 and 16 and was amazing.”
Four other Wolverines also finished with double-figure points.
Roby finished with a career-high 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and Morrow matched him with 10 points to lead the Huskers. Nebraska finished with 21 field goals and 16 turnovers while shooting 2-of-15 from deep.
After the game, Miles was asked again about his job status.
“I’m not worried about my job; I’m worried about coaching these guys and getting us better,” Miles said. “My administrators have supported me the whole time and been there to support us, whether it be at the game or practice. I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about this team and getting their butts in gear.”
Miles made it clear that he was not satisfied with his team’s effort against the Wolverines.
“They haven’t tried hard enough,” Miles said. “That’s all I have to say. They have not tried hard enough. Because what was out there was not a team that was competitive and trying hard enough. They need to keep working on it. Just go back to the drawing board, and we’re all going to meet, and we’re all going to figure it out. I’m going to start texting guys tonight, and we’re going to meet tomorrow, and we’re going to figure this out. Part of it is you gotta put your big-boy pants on. It’s a big-boy league.”
The loss solidifies the Huskers as the No. 12 seed in the Big Ten Tournament in Washington D.C. and they will play against No. 13 seed Penn State in Wednesday’s play-in round. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
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.