Remembering the Most Notable Buzzer-Beaters in Nebraska History
Photo Credit: James Wooldridge

Remembering the Most Notable Buzzer-Beaters in Nebraska History

January 18, 2018

Nebraska-Michigan, Dec. 12, 1964.

That came to mind while watching James Palmer Jr. hit a game-winning 3-point shot against Illinois with three-tenths of a second remaining at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

The memory is particularly special because I was with my dad, sitting in seats at the south end of the NU Coliseum, high up but with a good view of the finish.

Michigan, led by All-America guard Cazzie Russell, came to Lincoln ranked No. 1.

Joe Cipriano was in his second season as Nebraska’s head coach. And sophomore guard Fred Hare was in his first season as a Husker; freshmen were not yet eligible for varsity competition.

Hare, who was from Omaha Tech, remains one of the best high school players I’ve ever seen, in state or out – and I saw some outstanding prep players during seven years in Illinois in the 1970s.

Hare had an immediate impact. He would lead Nebraska in scoring and rebounding that season. But this was only his fourth varsity game (in a career cut short by knee surgeries).

The Huskers, led by 6-foot-7, 210-pound senior center Bob Antulov, hung with Michigan.

Antulov was in his second season after transferring from Columbia Basin Junior College in Pasco, Washington; Cipriano had west coast connections, having played at Washington. Antulov attended high school on the east coast, however, Far Rockaway High in New York City. He was married, the 1964-65 Nebraska media guide said, and had been the “NYC handball champion.”

The guide said Antulov had started the second half of his first season; though he lacked “shooting consistency,” he had played a “key role in upsets with clutch rebounding and tipins.”

The Huskers won only seven games during his junior season, including by three against Iowa State, by two against the Cyclones and by one against Oklahoma State.

Nebraska had lost at Michigan 80-55.

Antulov had a clutch rebound in the 1964 Michigan game, his 11th (to go with 15 points). His 10th had come on a missed Russell free throw, with 1:07 remaining and Michigan leading 73-72. Cipriano called timeout with 58 seconds left on the clock.

With no shot clock, Nebraska let the time wind down. Hare got the ball with 17 seconds remaining and took a shot with 7 seconds left. It missed, and Antulov rebounded but the ball was knocked out of his hands. Hare caught it and flipped it back over his head, into the basket.

The points were his 19th and 20th – he finished 9-of-21 from the field.

Final score: Nebraska 74, Michigan 73.

The Wolverines would climb back to No. 1, losing twice more during the regular season, and then by 91-80 to John Wooden and UCLA in the NCAA championship game at Portland, Oregon. Nebraska would finish 10-15, setting the stage for one of the best seasons in school history a year later.

Hare was a reserve in 1965-66, then was sidelined by a pair of knee surgeries.

Jim Kubacki’s field goal with 1 second remaining to give the Huskers a 43-41 upset of Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in 1958 is among the dramatic game-winners in Nebraska history as is Jamar Johnson’s 3-pointer from the right corner at the buzzer in overtime for a 81-79 victory against No. 3 ranked Kansas in 1992. Those two also came to mind as I watched Palmer’s shot go in against Illinois.

I was at home, watching on television (maybe dozing off from time to time), as Kubacki persuaded Coach Jerry Bush to let him suit up for the closing minutes in 1958, and I was the sports columnist for the Lincoln Journal and Star when Johnson sealed one of the Jayhawks’ five losses in the 1991-92 season.

Never mind that the Illini have yet to win in Big Ten play. That didn’t diminish the drama.

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