The Badgers, who led for most of the game, crumbled over the final ten minutes to lose their third straight game, 74-63. Nebraska scored 30 of the final 38 points in the game. The Badgers fall to 10-13, 3-6 in the Big Ten.
It was all going fine for the Badgers as they were in control for most of the game. Ethan Happ was enjoying one of his finer nights of the season. Wisconsin was outperforming Nebraska from the three-point line, shooting 7/16, and got contributions from unlikely sources: T.J. Schlundt, Aaron Moesch, and even Happ, who hit his first career three. Pritzl started 3/3 from the three-point line. Wisconsin was living at the free through line, and although they didn’t shoot it well from the charity stripe, they still had more makes than Nebraska had attempts.
The Badgers were up 55-44 with ten minutes left after a nasty Khalil Iverson slam.
Then, the perfect culmination of the 2017-18 season happened for the Badgers.
“Defensively we let off the gas for a little bit,” Happ said. “Got to execute all 40. Offensively, once they went zone, it was trouble for us. It’s not like we haven’t seen zone before. We need to be better.”
Wisconsin went scoreless for over three minutes, and Nebraska went on a 10-0 run to get back within one, they’re closest margin of the second half.
Nebraska finally got over the hump when Isaac Copeland beat Happ backdoor for an easy layup, tying the game up at 58-58 with just over five minutes left. Nathan Reuvers then turned the ball over on a post entry to half, leading to a James Palmer Jr. layup to give Nebraska its first lead of the half, and they wouldn’t look back.
Wisconsin continued to waste opportunities, turning the ball over and missing free throws, while Nebraska iced the game late with free throws. The turnaround happened so fast, it’s hard to do it justice. Nebraska was able to shut down Happ, who didn’t score for the final 14 minutes, as they switched to a 1-3-1 defense and a full-court press.
The Badgers led for 31:36 of the 40 minutes, but unfortunately for Greg Gard and his team, that doesn’t count for anything.
In a night where Wisconsin was dominating virtually every statistic, one statistic really hurt the Badgers and it’s one that’s caused issues all season: free throws. Wisconsin shot 16/31 from the charity stripe, and Happ missed 11 by himself. Nebraska went 18/22.
Palmer Jr. led Nebraska with 28 points. The junior went just 1/8 from the three-point line and still shot 8/19 from the field. Copeland added 17, and Glynn Watson chipped in 15.
For Wisconsin, Happ’s big night of 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists was unfortunately wasted as the Badgers crumbled down the stretch. Wisconsin outshot Nebraska from the field and the three-point line, but Nebraska made all the plays during the final ten minutes of play.
“There were some turnovers in there,” head coach Greg Gard said. “We’ve got to be better than that. Some of it’s due to guys playing a lot of minutes. Sometimes fatigue causes things to happen.”
It’s not very often you see a team up by double-digits with less than ten minutes to play end up losing by double-digits. However, it’s been that kind of year for Wisconsin.
“If we put a complete game together, we would be walking out of here in a different mood,” Moesch said. “But it’s not about 30 minutes and ten minutes.”
Up next, the Badgers play Northwestern on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m.