Keisei Tominaga’s streak of 20-plus points continued on Tuesday as Nebraska took down Rutgers in Piscataway, 82-72.
The 82 points are the most Nebraska has scored in Big Ten play this season and the most Rutgers — No. 2 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency heading into the game — has allowed at home. Rutgers had allowed just 56.3 points per game in its first six conference games at Jersey Mike’s Arena.
“Overall, I thought we played with pretty good poise and we had a lot of young guys out there on the floor,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It got loud out there as it always does at the RAC. This is one of the great environments in college basketball and I just thought our guys played with the poise that they needed to to give ourselves a chance to win.”
Nebraska matched its season high with 12 3-pointers, shooting 42.9%, and added 40 points in the paint as the Huskers shot a Big Ten season-best 58.2% from the field.
Tominaga finished with 22 points on 8-of-15 from the field (4-of-9 from 3) and 2-of-3 from the free-throw line. It’s his fourth straight game of 20-plus as he has totaled 98 points in his last four games.
C.J. Wilcher added 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting including a career-high five 3s on nine attempts. He started alongside fellow New Jersey native Jamarques Lawrence in a four-guard lineup around Derrick Walker.
“It’s great to see,” Hoiberg said. “Any time you play in front of your family and your friends like C.J. did, he had a ton of people in the stands watching and I’m really happy for C.J. He’s been absolutely shooting the heck out of the ball in practice … He did so many good things out there on the floor for us not only offensively, but I thought he competed on the other end as well. It’s good to see him get it going like that. Hopefully that can give him some confidence here down the stretch and the rest of the way.”
Walker finished with 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting while Sam Griesel notched his third double-double of the season with 12 points on 5-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line, 11 rebounds, five assists and just one turnover against Rutgers’ pressure.
Aundre Hyatt led four Scarlet Knights in double figures with 24 points, but Nebraska held Rutgers to 45.9% from thee film with light 3-pointers, and the Knights missed six of their 14 free throws.
Nebraska fell behind 8-2 out of the gates, and Rutgers led by five on three different occasions after that as six early turnovers against Rutgers’ pressure gave the Scarlet Knights an advantage despite some hot shooting from the Huskers.
After playing a season-low 10 minutes against Wisconsin, Wilcher made the most of his return to the starting lineup as he nailed his first three 3s to keep Nebraska afloat early.
“We really prepared for pressure,” Hoiberg said. “It’s what they do. They’re the best in the league at getting their hands on balls and getting deflections and creating turnovers. We knew they would come out aggressive coming back off the road trip at home. So the first five minutes, it was very important that we got off to a good start. They were hitting shots early.
“C.J. got us off to off to a great start hitting hitting three 3s and keeping us right there, and that is what allowed us to, I thought, stay competitive for 40 minutes. We’re kind of rotating that fifth spot around right now with with the injuries that we’ve had, but C.J., I thought, was terrific at getting us off to the exactly the start that we needed.”
After tying the game at 16-all, the Huskers used an 11-4 run to surge ahead, taking their first lead at 27-25 on Tominaga’s first bucket of the game following an 0-for-3 start.
Two more ties and six lead changes followed as the teams went back and forth, but the Huskers closed the half on a 6-0 run including a tough bucket from Griesel at the buzzer to take a 40-35 lead into the locker room.
Nebraska shot 65.4% from the field in the first half including 6-of-14 from 3. Walker hit all five of his shots for 10 points while Wilcher added nine with his three 3s plus three assists.
Nebraska turned the ball over eight times but Rutgers only converted them into five points on the other end. Conversely, Nebraska scored nine points on five Scarlet Knight giveaways. Hyatt scored 13 for Rutgers on 5-of-6 shooting with a couple of 3s.
Griesel opened the second half with a tough mid-air catch and finish, but the Huskers went cold from there. Nebraska missed six straight shots and Rutgers narrowed the lead to one before a tough bucket from Tominaga. Caleb McConnell answered with a step-back, but Nebraska used a 14-6 run to take its largest lead yet at 58-49. Wilcher and Tominaga each knocked down two 3s during the run.
The teams traded 3s, then traded 2s before Sam Hoiberg gave Nebraska its first double-digit lead at 66-54 with a 3 from the top of the key. The Huskers shot 6-for-14 from deep in the first 12 minutes of the second half, matching what they did in the whole first half.
Back-to-back Nebraska turnovers led to easy Rutgers layups to cut it to eight, but that’s as close as the Scarlet Knights got as Nebraska had an answer for every Rutgers push. Griesel, Walker and Hoiberg all made big plays down the stretch to seal the victory.
Nebraska cooled off slightly in the second half — to 51.7% from the field. The Huskers didn’t attempt a 3 in the last eight minutes, content to grind down the clock and attack the basket. Tominaga got hot in the second half for the second straight game to pace Nebraska with an efficient 15 points.
“Keisei, he got it going at the right time for us,” Hoiberg said. “He continues to attack the basket and shows a variety of very difficult shots. But overall, in this building, you have to play with poise. At times we had multiple freshmen out there on the floor together, and for those guys to go out there and find a way even to play through runs and adversity and it makes some big plays open it up a little bit, that’s what it’s all about.”
Nebraska will return to Pinnacle Bank Arena looking for its third straight win on Sunday as the Huskers host Maryland for a rematch. The Terrapins beat the Huskers 82-63 on Jan. 28 at the XFINITY Center.
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.