Nebraska picked up its second Big Ten win of the season in a 78-74 battle against Minnesota.
In doing so, the Huskers both matched their conference win total from last season and picked up their first quadrant 2 win of the season, a home win over a top 75 team in the NET rankings. There were several aberrations from an altogether excitingly weird game.
Here are three takeaways from the win:
Nebraska overcomes turnovers with hot shooting
After posting their most impressive shooting performance in a loss to Penn State on Tuesday, the Huskers topped their previous best marks. They shot 54.5% from the field, a new season-best against Division I opponents, and 52.9% from beyond the arc, their first time making over half of their 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Nebraska held the Golden Gophers to 34.3% shooting from the field and 26.7% on 3-pointers.
So why was the game so close in the first place? Nebraska turned the ball over 18 times, tied for its second-most this season, while Minnesota only did so nine times. For the fifth straight game, Nebraska’s opponent attempted more shots than the Huskers did, 70-to-55 this time, as Nebraska’s miscues allowed Minnesota far more opportunities.
Another reason for the close final margin was Nebraska’s continued free throw woes. Senior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson made the final two free throws, the most important pair, to put the Huskers up two possessions with three seconds left and all but guarantee a win. However, Nebraska should not have been in that situation in the first place. The Huskers shot 9-of-16 from the charity stripe, good for 56.3%, certainly not a confidence-inspiring number in a close game for the Big Ten’s second-worst free-throw shooting team.
Teddy Allen barely plays, raising more questions about Hoiberg’s decisions
Junior guard Teddy Allen, two games removed from a 41-point explosion, recorded his first scoreless game as a Husker, shooting 0-for-3. Even more concerning is the fact that he played just 10 minutes. Surely the Huskers would have appreciated having their shot maker down the stretch in a close game, but they ended up shooting well enough for it to not matter.
This comes after sophomore guard Dalano Banton, Nebraska’s leader in minutes played and minutes per game, saw his minutes plummet last week to season-lows of 19 then 13 minutes as he combined for two points in the losses against Purdue and Penn State. Banton, while a key player for the Huskers in their win tonight, again played below his average, seeing the floor for just 22 minutes tonight.
This calls into question coach Fred Hoiberg’s decision process as he’s held two of his key players out for extended periods of time in recent games. It will be interesting to see if Allen, who was suspended for a game earlier this season, sees his playing time return to customary levels in the near future.
Huskers utilize scoring-by-committee to top historic performance from Minnesota’s Carr
Nebraska saw six different players reach at least nine points in the win over the Golden Gophers, and nobody topped 14 points. It was Banton, despite relatively limited playing time, who led the team in scoring, shooting 6-for-10 and adding seven rebounds. Thorbjarnarson added a season-high 10 points on senior night on just four shots, and fellow senior guard Kobe Webster also had 10 points along with four assists.
Junior guard Trey McGowens reached double figures for the third straight game after falling below that mark each of the three previous games. He finished with 11 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with four rebounds and five assists. Junior forward Lat Mayen led Nebraska with three 3-pointers to total nine points on the night. The most impressive performance, however, belonged to junior forward Derrick Walker, who had 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, all career-highs.
This came on a night when Minnesota junior guard Marcus Carr erupted for a 41-point career-high. Like Allen’s performance just four days prior, Carr’s was also just one point shy of the school record.
The Golden Gophers blew an opportunity to pick up their first road win of the season with the loss, their fifth straight. Minnesota, once comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field, has seen its stock fall significantly in recent weeks and may even be off the bubble following this result. Conversely, Nebraska has proven it may be capable of a win or two in the coming games and the looming Big Ten Tournament.