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Huskers Edge Badgers In Defensive Battle

Before tonight, the Nebraska men’s basketball team (12-6, 3-2) was 0-5 when scoring under 70 points. Tonight, the Huskers grinded out a 63-59 win over Wisconsin (9-9, 2-3) to earn a shared 4th place spot in the Big Ten.

With 13 games remaining on the schedule, not including the Big Ten tournament, Nebraska has equaled last season’s win total.

The Huskers were led by junior James Palmer Jr. and junior Isaac Copeland Jr. who tallied 18 points and 12 points, respectively.

Ethan Happ led the Badgers with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Brad Davidson added 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Here are my takeaways from Nebraska’s third conference win. 

If you told me that Glynn Watson Jr. wouldn’t score until the final minute and would finish with three points (0-for-6 from the field) and three turnovers, AND Nebraska would shoot 2-of-14 from beyond the arc… well, I don’t think many would expect the Huskers to pull out the win.

In addition, Nebraska was 0-5 when scoring less than 70 points in a game. So factor in just 63 points…. well, how did Nebraska win?

First, Wisconsin is not very good. Aside of Happ, the Badgers really don’t have much offense to surround him with. Wisconsin shot below 40 percent for the vast majority of the game, the Badgers were 5-of-19 from 3 (with a lot of open looks), and were just 4-of-10 from the free throw line. Also, other than Happ, Wisconsin really doesn’t have a player that can create offense, for himself or teammates. Offensively, Wisconsin is not a good team. And when Happ was doubled, things got worse. Point Tim Miles.

In the opening 20 minutes, 12 out of 22 of Wisconsin’s points came off Nebraska turnovers. In the half-court, the Badgers couldn’t score on the Big Red.

With that being said, poor shot selection and careless turnovers from the Huskers kept Wisconsin close, and NU could never really pull away.

— Jordy Tshimanga overcame early struggles and ended up with a season-high

After early turnovers, missed shots and fouls, it looked like another rough start from the sophomore center. But as the game went along, Tshimanga’s energy rose and he battled on the glass to get some easy looks to fall. And for me, that’s where he will succeed – on the boards. In the first half, the Huskers fed Tshimanga in the post frequently, getting almost no production from Tshimanga. In fact, the missed shots and turnovers in the post actually hurt the Huskers. But in the second half, when Nebraska didn’t force post-touches and ran their offense, Tshimanga was able attack the glass and get offensive rebounds and easy buckets. That’s what will help Nebraska, not forcing him to try and score when he’s struggling. Overall, it was a promising, relieving game for Tshimanga and the Huskers.

— Speaking of struggles, where has Watson been? 

Honestly, I think it’s just a slump. The junior point guard is getting good looks and is playing fairly well, shots just aren’t falling. It’s just a slump. I don’t think Miles is that worried and I don’t think Husker fans should be either.

— Nebraska’s bench was really good. 

Anton Gill knocked down Nebraska’s only 3s, and timely ones at that, and finished with eight points off 3-of-6 shooting.

Freshman Thomas Allen hit his first two shots right away and sparked a quick 6-0 run in his first minutes off the bench. He finished with eight points (3-of-5) in 15 minutes. For the season, the freshman has been very good when Watson is on the bench.

Isaiah Roby finished with a team-high eight rebounds and four points off 1-of-2 shooting. His defense on the interior was huge for Nebraska, too.

Nebraska’s bench out-scored Wisconsin’s 20-3.

Overall, it was promising to see Nebraska win an ugly game where one of its best players was almost non-existant and the team couldn’t buy a 3. Last season this was a game the Huskers would have lost. And at this point in the season, at 12-6 and a ‘doable’ remaining schedule, making the Bubble for the NCAA Tournament seems achievable.

Nebraska will return to action Friday night as the Huskers travel to take on Penn St. (12-6, 2-3) at 6 p.m. on BTN.

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