Madison, WI – The Nebraska Cornhuskers traveled to Madison to play their final game of the regular season against the Wisconsin Badgers. The Cornhuskers have had a rough season under head coach Fred Hoiberg but have seemed to find some momentum late in conference play, entering Sunday’s matchup with consecutive road wins against Penn State and Ohio State. The Badgers are coming off an emotionally charged win against Purdue which gave them a share of the Big 10 regular season title and a win against Nebraska would mean an outright Big 10 title for the Badgers. However, the Cornhuskers came ready to play and defeated Wisconsin after Chucky Hepburn missed a 3-pointer with 5 seconds remaining, that would’ve replicated his previous late game heroics against Purdue. Nebraska came out on top 74-73.
Right from the opening tip, the Cornhuskers came out with high energy and a desire to win the game and did it on both ends of the court, forcing three early turnovers from the Badgers and jumped out to a 10-3 lead. Nebraska’s offensive game plan seemed simple and made the effort to attack the basket off the pick and roll. Guard Alonzo Verge Jr. led the way and made confident decisions in this play type, either leading to a mid-range jumper or to an open teammate rolling to the basket off the screen.
Simultaneously, Johnny Davis picked up his second foul of the game at the 10:54 mark and was forced to sit the remainder of the first half. Wisconsin was also missing easy shots near the rim that they normally make and found themselves trailing 23-13. The Cornhuskers scored at will in the paint off drives from Verge Jr. or Derrick Walker and didn’t need much from beyond the arc, as they hit their first 3-pointer of the game at the 8-minute mark. The tough play from Brad Davison and Tyler Wahl kept Wisconsin in the game as they trailed Nebraska at the half, 40-36.
To begin the second half the Cornhuskers started similarly to the first half, as Verge Jr. diced up the Badger defense in the pick and roll, extending their lead back up to eight (45-37). From there, Davis would rejoin the game, but his return to action would be short lived, as he would have to head to the locker room after spraining his right ankle on a layup attempt. Davis also was hit across the head as he fell to the ground and Nebraska guard Trey McGowens would be ejected from the game with a flagrant-2 foul. The foul sparked some intensity in Wisconsin and they would regain the lead for the first time since the beginning of the first half. The Badgers’ senior center Chris Vogt would also play more aggressive after this, providing second chance opportunities near the basket. As a result, the rest of the team fed off this newly gained energy and drew countless fouls on Nebraska. The Badgers went 18-of-22 from the free throw line within the first eight minutes of action in the second half. Wisconsin took a 62-52 lead and appeared to be on their way to breaking this game open.
However, the Cornhuskers would respond in the next few minutes and showed grit, cutting their deficit back down to four. Verge Jr. rattled off nine consecutive points, which was highlighted by a crucial 3-pointer that gave Nebraska the 72-71 lead at the 1:52 mark. Verge Jr. went on to make a pair of free throws to make it a three-point lead with 34 seconds left but fouled out when he was defending a 3-point shot attempt by Hepburn. The freshman guard only hit two free throws and would go on to miss a game winning 3-pointer on the next possession. Nebraska would hang on and secure the upset win, shocking the Badgers 74-73.
Nebraska had an efficient game from the floor, shooting just under 54 percent on 29-of-54. The hot two-point shooting proved to be the difference for the Cornhuskers and were led by Verge Jr. (26 points, 6 assists 5 rebounds). Walker provided valuable paint touches and drove to the basket effectively, scoring 15 points while grabbing 7 rebounds. The Badgers were led by Davison who picked up 20 points in his final game at the Kohl center. Wisconsin noticeably missed the efforts from their NPOTY candidate Davis played only 12 minutes.
Nebraska (11-21, 5-16) will head to Indianapolis and look to maintain their improved play. Wisconsin (24-7, 15-6) still has a chance of clinching an outright Big 10 title with an Illinois loss to Iowa on Sunday night and hope to hear positive news about Davis’ injury for the upcoming conference tournament and Big Dance.