Using just seven players, Nebraska kept their season and their hopes alive by beating Rutgers 68 to 61 Wednesday night in the first round of the Big 10 Tournament.
Things didn’t look good for NU to start off. The Huskers began the evening just 1-8 from the floor, with Thorir Thorbjarnarson’s driving layup were the only points scored through the first three minutes of action in Chicago.
Then a few minutes later, Rutgers would gain their largest lead of the first, 12-4 after Eugene Omoruyi layed one in underneath the basket. The Huskers would rally back though and ultimately take their first lead of the game when James Palmer Jr. scored right before halftime to take a one point lead, 26-25.
However, the Scarlet Knights responded right back, scoring five unanswered points to start the second. But Palmer never let it get out of hand, practically putting on a one man show throughout the second. By the 10 minute mark, Palmer had 14 of Nebraska’s 16 points. He would finish with 34 points, a season high for him.
Down the stretch, the defensive contributions of Johnny Trueblood were a huge boost off the bench for the Big Red. His stolen ball that was dished to Isaiah Roby finally erased the Scarlet Knight’s lead with four minutes to go in the game, as Roby hit both of his foul shots to give NU the one point advantage, 52-51.
A three ball from Palmer made it a four point lead soon after Roby’s free throws. The real dagger though, came when Palmer stole the ball away from Rutger’s guard Geo Baker on a bad pass, giving Palmer a wide open lane to dunk the ball with 90 seconds left in the game. Palmer was intentionally fouled as he jammed the ball through the hoop. Although he missed both attempts from the line, Nebraska had their largest lead of the night with 8 points.
The lead proved to be insurmountable, as the Scarlet Knights wasted away the final moments of the game, getting bounced from the Big 10 Tournament by a depleted Husker squad.
“They laid everything out on the line. They did not want this to be their last game,” assistant coach Armon Gates said following the game on the Husker Sports Network. “That’s our mindset. This is postseason play. It’s a brand new season. Our guys have forgotten everything that’s happened up until this day.”
The Huskers now have two consecutive come from behind victories. “When adversity hits, people come together,” Gates said. “When you see a tragedy, people come together. That’s what you see with our team.”
Nebraska will have a harder feat tomorrow. They’ll take on Maryland, a team that boasts the likes of Bruno Fernando, Jalen Smith, and Anthony Cowan. The Huskers lost twice to the Terrapins during the regular season.
(Photo – Kenny Larabee)