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Photo Credit: Nebraska Media Relations

Sharp-Shooting Huskers Spoil Iowa’s Senior Day to Secure Season Sweep

March 05, 2023

Nebraska made plenty of mistakes on Sunday afternoon in Iowa City, but basketball is a make-or-miss game and the Huskers did a whole lot of making, especially in the second half, to spoil Iowa’s senior day, 81-77.

With the win, the Huskers secured their first season sweep of the Hawkeyes since joining the Big Ten and finished above .500 during the regular season at 16-15 (9-10 Big Ten). Nebraska won six of its last eight games.

Iowa grabbed 21 offensive rebounds and forced 15 Nebraska turnovers, leading to 51 Hawkeye points off the extra possessions (30 more than Nebraska scored in the same categories).

However, Nebraska made a season-high 14 3-pointers, connecting at a 53.8% clip, and shot 58.5% overall. The Huskers put up 81 points with just five made free throws on eight attempts and had a Big Ten season-high 19 assists on 31 field goals.

“It felt like it was a complete 40 today,” Sam Griesel said during a post-game radio interview. “Every game there are going to be times we’re going to mess up, but like I talked about before, it’s all about the resiliency and the togetherness of this group. We all love each other. We know that each of us are going to make mistakes throughout the game, but when we have each other’s backs and the staff has our backs, it really helps put together a whole 40.”

Griesel led Nebraska with 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting including a season-high three 3-pointers, and he also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists without a turnover. Jamarques Lawrence tied his career high with 15 points on 5-of-8 from while adding five rebounds and four assists to his line.

C.J. Wilcher scored 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting (2-of-4 from 3) with five rebounds. Keisei Tominaga got the Huskers off to a great start and finished with 11 points. Sam Hoiberg and Wilhelm Breidenbach chipped in nine points apiece off the bench on a combined 7-of-12 shooting including 3-of-6 from deep. Derrick Walker did a bit of everything with nine points, 12 rebounds and a career-high-tying eight assists.

“C.J. when he got back in there at the end, those two layups and the 3 were huge,” Fred Hoiberg said. “Wilhelm knocked down a huge one for us; I thought he played terrific today. Sam [Hoiberg] hitting those two 3s was phenomenal. Jamarques got up and got us off to another really hot start; he just continues to get better every time he steps on the floor. You look at Derrick’s stat line, almost a triple-double, but he really didn’t get it going offensively until late, missed a couple inside that he normally would finish, but again, once we got the ball into Derrick and played through him, I thought he made some unbelievable decisions.”

The Huskers held the Hawkeyes to 36.5% shooting for the game including 32.4% from 3. Patrick McCaffery went 6-for-10 from 3 and scored a game-high 23 points, but Nebraska limited his looks in the second half. Kris Murray scored 22 points but it took him 22 field goal and five free throw attempts to get there as he went 3-for-13 from 3.

“I’ve been a part of two senior nights and lost both of them,” Griesel said. “It’s difficult, honestly, when you have such a big emotional attachment to a school to kind of hone in on those and you get a crazy rollercoaster of emotions. So it’s tough to be the home team on senior night and we wanted to use that to our advantage. I think they hit like eight or nine 3s in the first half, so they had really good energy coming out, but we always had an answer and that’s just the resiliency that we’ve seen from this group since day one that we’ve been together.”

Nebraska got off to a dream start, hitting six of its first eight shots including four 3s to race out out to an 18-9 lead.

However, Iowa got back in the game by asserting itself on the offensive glass against the smaller Husker lineup, ripping off a 12-0 run with three 3s and a three-point play to surge ahead. 

Iowa built the lead up to five at 33-28 on its sixth 3-pointer of the game before the Huskers got in on the second-chance action with a put-back from Wilhelm Breidenbach and a 3 from Sam Griesel after an offensive rebound. Griesel knocked down another 3 on the following possession to make it an 8-0 run for a 36-33 Nebraska lead.

Iowa fired right back with another triple in transition, however, sparking a 10-1 (all on 3s including a four-point play) run to put the Hawkeyes back in front. Griesel ended the half with a bucket in the post to pull Nebraska within four at 43-39.

Nebraska shot 57.1% from the field with six 3-pointers in the first half as the veterans did the heavy lifting early. Griesel scored 14 points and Tominaga added 11 on a combined 10-for-15 shooting.

However, the Hawkeyes secured nine offensive rebounds and converted them into 17 second-chance points while Patrick McCaffery scored 16 points and hit five of Iowa’s nine 3s.

The Huskers continued to struggle on the defensive glass in the second half, and turnovers began to mount as well as they got a little sloppy with the ball. Even so, Nebraska continued to hit shots and managed to hang around, tying it up at 51-all on a three-point play from Walker five minutes into the half.

Iowa responded with an 11-4 run including two second-chance buckets and a transition 3 off a turnover to pull ahead 62-55. Four steals and seven offensive rebounds in the first eight minutes led to 15 Iowa points.

Fred Hoiberg called a timeout to settle the team down and Sam Hoiberg provided a spark once play resumed, knocking down a 3 off great ball movement to trigger a 13-5 run. Hoiberg hit another 3 to cap the run and put Nebraska back in front, 68-67.

Four lead changes followed before a pair of free throws from Connor McCaffery tied it up at 73-all with five and a half to play. Four empty possession followed before Wilcher took over, putting Nebraska in front by five with a personal 7-2 run including a pair of layups and a left-wing 3.

Nebraska gave Iowa three chances to score on the following possession and Connor McCaffery finally took advantage of the third with a pair of free throws, making it 80-77 Nebraska with just under two minute to play, but Iowa didn’t score again.

The Hawkeyes missed two 3s, two free throws and a shot at the basket down the stretch. Sam Hoiberg went 1-for-3 on bonus free throws down the stretch but made up for the misses by drawing a charge on Connor McCaffery with 16.8 to go to ice the game

“We talked about how sneaky of an offensive rebounding team they are, and our just inability to make contact — we would turn and they were already past us,” Coach Hoiberg said. “Finally when we got a little bit of physicality to us, it made all the difference in the world. I think we held them without a field goal  the last six minutes in the game, and that’s hard to do against this team. They’re so explosive and they’ve got guys all over the floor that can knock down shots … Huge charge there by Sam at the end of the game. Of course, he made it interesting with the free throws, but again, we just made made great stops.”

Griesel and Tominaga combined for two points in the second half, but the underclassmen picked up the lack as Wilcher ;ed the way with 10 while Hoiberg and Lawrence chipped in nine apiece after halftime. Nebraska shot 60% from the field in the second half including a blistering 8-for-12 from 3. Iowa shot 29.7% from the field and made just three of its 16 3-point attempts to offset its 27-5 edge in combined points off turnovers and offensive rebounds.

Up next for Nebraska is a trip to Chicago for the Big ten Tournament. The Huskers will be the 11 seed playing in the late game on Wednesday night against No. 14 Minnesota.

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