Ball security was one of the big focuses in practice this week for Nebraska after a season-high 21 turnovers against Northwestern, but it didn’t show on Thursday as Nebraska fell at No. 25 Michigan 82-58.
The Huskers (7-23, 2-17 Big Ten) turned the ball over 22 times leading to 24 points for the Wolverines (19-11, 10-9) on the other end. Six different Huskers had multiple giveaways and all eight that saw the court turned it over at least once.
Of course, playing without your point guard doesn’t help. Sophomore Cam Mack was back in Lincoln during the game serving a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Charlie Easley started in Mack’s place, though Fred Hoiberg said on the radio before the game that he was battling through a knee issue.
Nebraska couldn’t have gotten off to much worse of a start, surrendering a 9-0 run for an 11-2 Michigan lead before the first media timeout. Nebraska settled in briefly, but the Wolverines turned up the pressure again and pulled ahead 21-12 on and and-one dunk by Franz Wagner. Nebraska had six turnovers and four field goals at that point.
Nebraska dug in and cut the deficit all the way down to one at 23-22 as Michigan went 2-of-16 from the field during an extended period. Then Nebraska fell apart.
The Huskers’ next 10 possessions after cutting it to one: missed layup, turnover, turnover, missed 3, turnover, turnover, missed bunny, turnover, missed bunny, missed layup. That scoring drought lasted just under five-and-a-half minutes.
Nebraska scored on its last three possessions to make it a four-point game at halftime, 32-28. The Huskers held the Wolverines to 34.2% shooting in the first half to help make up for their 12 turnovers, but Nebraska wasn’t much better from the field at 37%.
Michigan blitzed Nebraska out of the locker room, opening the second half on a 21-6 run while shooting 8-of-11 from the field. Nebraska turned the ball over four more times as the Wolverines built the lead up to 19 at 53-34.
The Huskers briefly showed some fight with a 6-0 run including a pair of steals and fast-break layups, but Michigan outscored Nebraska 24-13 over the final 10 or so minutes.
With eight available bodies and Easley struggling, Hoiberg experimented with some two-big lineups featuring both Yvan Ouedraogo and Kevin Cross Jr. for the first time this season. Fellow freshman Akol Arop also saw a season-high 20 minutes, finishing with five points and six rebounds, both career-highs. He was a team-best plus-3 in the 24-point loss.
Haanif Cheatham led all scorers with 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Dachon Burke Jr. scored 16 points but shot 6-of-17 from the field. The Huskers shot 36.2% overall including 4-of-13 (30.8%) from 3 and had just eight assists.Nebraska also shot 12-of-15 from the free-throw line after a historically bad 8-for-30 performance in the loss to Northwestern.
Michigan had five players score in double figures and scored 40 points in the paint including 30 in the second half. Senior point guard Zavier Simpson — who was suspended when Nebraska lost to Michigan in Lincoln back on Jan. 28 — recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists on his senior day. Junior Isaiah Livers, who missed the first game as well with an injury, led the Wolverines with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Nebraska’s losing streak has reached 15 games. The Huskers will have one last opportunity to end it during the regular season at Minnesota on Sunday. Tipoff is set for noon CT on BTN.
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.