Out-matched, out-played, out-coached.
Facing No. 9 Michigan, Nebraska (15-14, 5-13) was nowhere close to competing against the team that knocked it out of last year’s Big Ten Tournament.
Instead, the Wolverines dominated from start to finish, bouncing back from a loss against Michigan State last Sunday with an 82-53 win over the Huskers.
“It was all in the first half,” Miles said about his team’s struggles. “It was extremely disappointing. We allowed Michigan to be the aggressive team, we allowed Michigan to be the physical team.”
Senior center Tanner Borchardt was the only starter to make more than one shot in the first half, prompting Tim Miles to completely blow up his rotations before the second half started.
Senior guard James Palmer Jr., junior forward Isaiah Roby and sophomore guard Thomas Allen missed every shot they attempted in the first half, so Miles left them all on the bench for the first eight minutes of the second half. Bench players Nana Akenten (so.), Thorir Thorbjarnarson (so.) and Amir Harris (fr.) were able to keep the deficit from increasing, but it was not enough to keep up with the hot-shooting Wolverines.
By the end of the first half, Michigan had a 43-21 lead and made six threes, while Nebraska made none. No stat more exemplified Nebraska’s lack of effort in the half than that they committed just four fouls while the Wolverines imposed their will on offense.
Any way Michigan could have beaten Nebraska, it did. The Wolverines shot 56 percent from the field, made 12 threes and out-rebounded the Huskers 44-31. Even their walk-ons got in on the beatdown, capping the mismatch off with seven points in the final minutes.
While the bench players were holding their ground early in the second half, they eventually were embarrassed. Sophomore forward Jordan Poole threw down a vicious dunk on Thorbjarnarson that silenced any early momentum the Huskers created.
The only break Nebraska seemed to get the entire night happened before the game, when Michigan’s lone senior, Charles Matthews, did not suit up because of an ankle injury. Even that advantage was short-lived, as sophomore forward Isaiah Livers took his place and scored eight points in the first half alone.
Perhaps the largest benefactor of Matthews’ absence was seldom-used freshman Colin Castleton, who came off the bench to score 11 points. Going into the night, he had six total points in his career and none in conference play.
Castleton’s 11 points were more than any Nebraska starter. Akenten matched his scoring effort with 11 of his own, seven of which came in a quick spurt early in the second half. His success was short-lived, as he exited the game with an undisclosed injury when he fell hard after going up for a block in the second half.
Allen, along with the other two benched starters, returned to the game shortly after the injury. Roby responded by scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds. Palmer Jr. scored seven points in the final 10 minutes. Allen finished with two points, but exited early with an injury to his left leg. He did not return.
Miles said after the game he believes Allen’s injury is serious.
Nebraska’s bench finished with 21 points, including a career-high eight points from Harris. He also added four rebounds.
After the loss, Miles was still searching for answers.
“What I do know is that we didn’t come with a mentality that was equal to Michigan’s,” Miles said. “Michigan’s a really really good team ... my job as a coach is to get that [mentality] out of them.”
Things won’t be getting any easier for Nebraska, either. After taking this weekend off, it will travel back to Michigan to play at No. 6 Michigan State next Tuesday.