CHICAGO – The nineteenth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers squeaked out a win in the quarterfinal of the Big Ten Tournament against the undermanned Nebraska Cornhuskers, 66-62. Four players were in double figures for Wisconsin in the back-and-forth slugfest.
It was a really strange game. Nebraska only played six players. Ethan Happ did not score a point in the second half (and only four in the first). Wisconsin turned the ball over an outrageous 17 times. But this time of year is all about surviving and advancing.
Wisconsin looked like it was ready to run away with the game from the tip on Friday afternoon. The Badgers immediately got out to an 8-0 lead over the Cornhuskers as Greg Gard’s squad worked the paint. Nate Reuvers had eight of the first ten points.
The Badgers were scorching from the field during the first half, shooting 13/23. Nebraska hung tough and took Wisconsin’s punches, mostly because of Wisconsin’s nine turnovers. The Badgers had a particularly tough stretch with five turnovers in less than three minutes that helped Nebraska reduce a 13-point deficit down to just five at halftime.
Nebraska went on an 8-0 run over the final 3:27 of the half. Ethan Happ had a particularly rough first half, getting pulled by Gard multiple times after bad passes resulting in turnovers.
In the second half, Wisconsin’s turnovers continued. Nebraska’s defense seemed to pester and bother everyone in a white jersey. Gard’s rotations were like a revolving door as he was trying to find anyone who would take care of the ball.
Nebraska, badly undermanned and at some points visibly tired, continued to knock at the door. The Cornhuskers trailed by two points for nearly three minutes as neither team could find the hoop. With just over ten minutes remaining, Nebraska finally broke through and took their first lead of the game after a James Palmer Jr. drive and score, 46-44.
Wisconsin calmly responded, finally showing signs of life. Reuvers banked in a three from the top of the arch. Moments later, Brad Davison seemed to get away with a minor push-off to create space for a jumper.
Turnovers continued to cost the Badgers. Their seventeenth and eighteenth turnovers of the game led to five points for Glynn Watson, who led the game in scoring with 23 points. Ultimately, however, it seemed like the six-man rotation ran out of gas for the Cornhuskers.
It would be D’Mitrik Trice who officially ended things. The junior point guard hit just his second shot of the game with 58 seconds remaining to give the Badgers a two-possession lead, and Nebraska couldn’t recover.
Trice and Davison closed the game out by going six-of-six from the charity stripe.
Palmer Jr., Watson, and Isaiah Roby all logged 40 minutes in a heroic effort for Nebraska. Ultimately though, the Badgers had too many weapons. More Badgers scored than Huskers played.
Khalil Iverson scored 14 points to continue his hot stretch to end the season. Reuvers scored 14 as well.
“His confidence level is at an all-time high,” Gard said of Iverson postgame. “You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of your career and he’s doing that.”
“I thought the key to the game was Iverson,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said. “When he’s hitting outside shots…you know (other guys) are going to hit shots…he was the key.”
The Badgers will face Michigan State at noon tomorrow in the Big Ten semifinal.