In a game of runs, an 8-0 stretch by Rutgers down the stretch sealed Nebraska’s fate as the Huskers fell 76-69 in Piscataway on Monday night.
The win was just the second in Big Ten play for the Scarlet Knights (9-9, 2-6) while the Huskers fall to 3-5 in conference play and 12-6 overall.
Nebraska shot 41.7 percent from the field including 35.7 percent in the second half. The Huskers were 9-of-22 (40.9 percent) from 3 for the game but only 10-of-18 (55.6 percent) from the free-throw line. Rutgers out-rebounded Nebraska 44 to 34 (14 to nine on the offensive end) and out-scored the Huskers 42 to 24 in the paint. Nebraska forced three more turnovers, but Rutgers outscored Nebraska in points off takeaways 19 to 13.
Freshman Montez Mathis led the Scarlet Knights with 20 points and nine rebounds, sophomore point guard Geo Baker added 16 points and freshman center chipped in 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
James Palmer Jr. led the Huskers with 22 points on 7-of-18 from the field and 5-of-9 from the line with four assists and four rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds (the first time he left the game). Isaac Copland Jr. had a great first half but struggled int he second to finish with 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds. Glynn Watson Jr. had 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and four turnovers.
Nebraska got of to a slow start, missing its first five shots and falling behind 4-1. Roby — who split a pair of free throws for Nebraska’s first point — sparked a 9-0 win with a put-back and a dunk. Palmer accounted for the last five of that run with a layup on the break and a 3-pointer.
After a timeout, Rutgers’ leading scorer, Eugene Omoruyi, checked in after missing the last three games with a dislocated kneecap. His return sparked an 8-0 run by the Scarlet Knights before Copeland tied the game at 12-all with an elbow jumper.
Rutgers pulled ahead 14-12, then Nebraska dug in and ripped off a 19-4 run to take a 31-18 lead. The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over 12 times in the first 15 minutes, leading to 13 Nebraska points on the other end.
The Nebraska started turning the ball over itself, fueling a 15-0 Rutgers run that included two three-point plays, two dunks and an open 3. The Husker had four giveaways during that stretch.
A hustle play by Isaiah Roby led to a put-back by Copeland to end the run and tie it at 33-33. After a stop, Copeland knocked down a jumper to give the Huskers the lead, then another stop led to a buzzer-beating 3 by Palmer from way downtown.
Nice way to end a half. #JPJTrey pic.twitter.com/UCpGZ0ataV
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) January 22, 2019
Rutgers jumped out to a 14-6 lead on the glass but Nebraska cut that deficit in half by halftime as the Scarlet Knights held a 20 to 16 advantage with six offensive boards and seven second-chance points. Rutgers turned the ball over 13 times, but Nebraska gave it back nine and the Scarlet Knights had to 14 to 13 lead in points off turnovers.
Copeland led all scorers with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and the buzzer-beater gave Palmer 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Rutgers struck first to open the second half, but Palmer got to the foul line for the first time, splitting the shots, then Watson converted a four-point play to put Nebraska up 43-35. However, Rutgers rallied to tie the game with an 8-0 run capped by a three-point play from freshman Montez Mathis.
The teams traded blows over the next several minutes with neither team able to take control until a 7-0 run by Rutgers including four points by Mathis gave the Scarlet Knights a 69-53 lead with seven minutes to play. Rutgers pushed the lead to seven twice with buckets by Myles Johnson both times.
Nebraska responded with an 8-1 run (3s by Watson and Palmer and a pair of free throws by Palmer) to tie the game at 67-all with two minutes to play. Nebraska got a stop, but couldn’t secure the board and Johnson put the Scarlet Knights up for good. Palmer missed a shot on the other end, then fouled Peter Kiss in the double bonus with 1:22 to play. Kiss hit both shots to double the lead, then Nebraska called a timeout.
Tim Miles drew up a play to get Copeland free for a look from 3 but the senior couldn’t hit the shot. Palmer fouled Johnson on the rebound and the big man split the shots. Nebraska went back to Copeland, who drove to the rim and got blocked. The Huskers retained possession and went to Copeland again, who found space for a pull-up mid-range jumper and missed again.
Nebraska fouled Mathis and he missed both free throws. Watson pushed it up the court and found Copeland open in the corner for another 3, but he came up empty again. On the other end, Rutgers missed at the rim twice but grabbed the board both times and finally converted on their third attempt. Another missed 3 by Watson, a free-throw by Mathis, a layup by Palmer (snapping an 8-0 run) and a free-throw by Rutgers closed out the scoring. Mathis missed his second attempt with 1 seconds left and tracked down his own rebound before dribbling out the clock.
Rutgers grabbed eight offensive rebounds and scored 10 second-chance points in the second half. After 13 turnovers in the first half, Rutgers only gave the ball away twice in the second half and Nebraska didn’t score any points off of them. Copeland score two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the second half.
Next up for the Huskers is an 11 a.m. tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena against Ohio State on Saturday.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.