(Photo – Kenny Larabee)
Nebraska entered the United Center with a monumental task ahead of them. The Huskers only had 8 players available, about to take on an opponent that had handed Nebraska their most demoralizing loss of the season just one month ago.
It was a brutal night at PBA for Nebraska that February night. Bruno Fernando sent Husker forward Tanner Borchardt sprawling to the Hardwood, flaring his leg out leg out after he stepped over him. Isaac Copeland left the game early after tearing his ACL. A teary eyed Tim Miles choked up in the post game press conference, telling reporters that his program had hit “rock bottom.”
All of that seemed like a decade in the past Thursday afternoon, as the Huskers defeated the Maryland Terrapins 69 to 61 to advance to the Big 10 Tournament quarterfinals.
Nebraska looked in command from the get go, as they held a 12 point lead at halftime. With about 90 seconds to go in the first, James Palmer Jr. nailed a triple to give the Huskers a 13 point lead, their largest lead of the half. NU made 7 of their last 9 field goals to end the first.
In the second half, an Isaiah Roby three ball gave Nebraska their largest lead of the afternoon inside the 19 minute mark, but a couple of minutes later, Maryland had halved the Husker’s lead by the first media timeout, 35-28 the score.
The lead dwindled down to five points after Brady Heiman missed a wide open layup attempt with 15:16 left in the game. Tanner Borchardt would eventually break the drought a couple of possessions later, but a chance to put away the Terrapins early appeared to be blown.
But Nebraska wasn’t going to go down that easily. They proceeded to go on a 9-0 run, capped off by a Watson three pointer to make it 44-30 Nebraska with just under 12 minutes to go in the second half.
Just as the Terrapins cut the lead to single digits again a few minutes later, a technical foul was called on Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon. Watson made both of the free throws to put their lead back to double digits. Then Roby converted an and-one opportunity the next possession, putting NU back up by 14.
Down the stretch, Nebraska was able to keep the Terrapins at bay. With less than two minutes left, Johnny Trueblood hauled in an offensive rebound to give the Huskers a new shot clock, allowing Palmer to drain a three to make it a nine point game just as it appeared the Huskers had a choke job on their hands.
It was the effective dagger of the game, allowing NU to dribble out the game clock a few possessions later to win the game by a final score of 69 to 61.
Nebraska only needed 7 players to win the game yet again. Palmer finished with 24 points. Watson had 19 and Roby had 15. As a team, the Huskers shot 43.6% from the floor.
Nebraska will square off against Wisconsin on Friday for the Big 10 quarterfinal game. Coverage will begin at 12:30 on KLIN.