NEW YORK — Nebraska came into the weekend with control of its own postseason destiny.
That’s no longer the case, following a 77-58 loss at the hands of No. 5 seed Michigan (24-7, 13-5) in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at Madison Square Garden.
The Huskers are unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament because of the loss.
WHY: Facing a 10-point halftime deficit after a miserable shooting performance in the game’s first 20 minutes, Nebraska did little to make up for it in the second half. The Huskers finished shooting 30 percent from the field, while Michigan shot 45 percent (11 of 22 on 3-pointers), which was more than enough to win.
Michigan’s defense was exemplary, allowing no easy drives to the basket or even open jumpers. The Wolverines’ length and tenacity was simply too much for the Huskers, who could not capitalize on earning a double-bye in the tournament.
After scoring 9 points in the game’s first 3 minutes, 51 seconds, the Huskers went ice cold. Nebraska went 1 for 20 from the field for a stretch. Michigan took advantage and ran out to a 34-24 halftime lead. The Huskers were fortunate to be trailing by just 10.
Nebraska shot 23 percent (7 for 30) in the first half. The Huskers made 9 of 11 free throws to keep them in the game. But the Huskers’ second-half performance nullified that effort.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Huskers had their chance to earn a quality win over a NCAA Tournament-bound team on a neutral court, but the paltry first half doomed them. Now, Nebraska will have to wait a long nine days to see if its name is called on Selection Sunday, but the odds of making it to the big dance are nearly impossible. It’s likely Nebraska played itself off the bubble with this performance.
It’s a disappointing end to a season that saw the program set a record number of conference wins. The Big Ten’s overall resume hurt Nebraska. The Huskers needed to win a game or two over worthy opponents in New York to bolster their own résumé. They couldn’t pull if off, though.
WHO STARRED: Michigan’s Moritz Wagner redeemed himself after fouling out a day earlier against Iowa with a double-double. He finished with 20 points on 9 of 16 shooting and 13 rebounds. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman was 5 for 5 from 3-point territory and finished with 21 points. For the second straight day, Duncan Robinson delivered some big-time outside shooting and put up 16 points on 4 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc.
James Palmer Jr. poured in 15 points for Nebraska, accounting for most of his team’s offense. He was 3 of 9 from the field and 8 for 9 from the foul line. Isaiah Roby had a team-high 18 points and shot 50 percent from the field.
WHO STUMBLED: Everyone not named Palmer on Nebraska, particularly during the first half. Isaac Copeland was the main culprit though, finishing with 3 points on 1 of 8 shooting.
WHO IS NEXT: Nebraska’s fate now rests with the selection committee. Unfortunately for the Huskers, odds are the next opponent they face will be in the NIT — if they accept a bid to that tournament.
Michigan will face rival Michigan State in the first semifinal game Saturday at 2 p.m. ET (CBSSN).
WHO WAS THERE: Former Atlanta Braves pitcher and current FOX MLB analyst John Smoltz took in the game. Michigan native and Comedy Central personality Jordan Kelpper watched from the first few rows.
CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz and sports-talk host Doug Gottlieb were seen as well.
FINAL: Michigan 77, Nebraska 58 pic.twitter.com/v6fbktsYis
— Chris Bumbaca (@BOOMbaca) March 2, 2018