Huskers Fall at Mississippi State in NIT Opener
The Nebraska men’s basketball team could not overcome a pair of long field goal droughts on Wednesday night, as the Huskers saw a successful season come to an end with a 66-59 loss at Mississippi State in an NIT first-round matchup at Humphrey Coliseum.
Nebraska led early before missing seven straight shots in a five-minute stretch without a field goal in the first quarter. The drought left the Huskers with a seven-point deficit after one quarter of play, but Nebraska rallied to grab a 51-50 lead with 7:41 remaining. But after taking their first lead in nearly 28 minutes, Nebraska missed 10 of its next 11 shots and made just one basket in a span of more than seven minutes. With the Huskers struggling from the field, the Bulldogs used an 11-2 run to build an eight-point lead with 1:45 to play, and Nebraska would get no closer than four the rest of the way.
With the loss, the Huskers ended their season with a 22-11 record, marking a 10-win improvement from last season. Nebraska’s 22 wins tied for the second-most in school history after the Huskers set a school record with 13 conference victories.
Mississippi State, which won for the 19th time in 21 home games this season, improved to 23-11 and advanced to a second-round matchup at Baylor on Sunday.
James Palmer Jr. paced Nebraska with 13 points, as he finished his junior season with 568 points, the eighth-most points in Husker history. Isaac Copeland Jr. added 12 points before he fouled out late in the fourth quarter, and Isaiah Roby chipped in 10 points and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds before also fouling out.
Nebraska took great care of the ball against the Bulldogs, tying its season low with just five turnovers, but the Huskers were outrebounded by 17 and shot just 35 percent (23-of-65). The Huskers were only 6-of-22 from the 3-point line.
Mississippi State was led by Aric Holman, who posted a double-double off the bench with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Abdul Ado added 15 points and nine rebounds, while Xavian Stapleton scored 12 points and Lamar Peters dished out 14 assists. The Bulldogs shot 42 percent from the field (24-of-57) and matched Nebraska with six 3-pointers.
In the first quarter, Anton Gill opened the scoring with a 3-pointer before Mississippi State scored the next six points. Nebraska quickly regained the lead at 7-6 on back-to-back baskets 24 seconds apart from Copeland and Glynn Watson Jr. But Nebraska then missed its next seven shots, going nearly five minutes without a field goal, and MSU took advantage to build a 15-8 lead. The Bulldogs led 19-12 at the end of the opening quarter thanks to a strong inside presence, as 16 of Mississippi State’s 19 points were scored in the paint. The Bulldogs shot 56 percent in the first period (9-of-16), while Nebraska made only five of its 18 shots (28 percent).
The second quarter featured a series of runs for both teams. Nebraska scored the first seven points of the quarter to tie the game at 19-19. Mississippi State then scored the next five points while holding the Huskers scoreless for more than three minutes. Down by five, Nebraska scored four straight points to pull within one, only to see Mississippi State answer with six consecutive points to go on top 30-23. The Huskers answered right back and scored the next five points before MSU closed the quarter with a 3-pointer to take a 33-28 lead into the locker room. Nebraska outscored the Bulldogs by two in the second quarter, limiting the Bulldogs to 4-of-17 shooting, but three of those baskets were 3-pointers.
In the third quarter, Roby knocked down his first 3-pointer and the converted a traditional three-point play to get the Huskers within one at 35-34. After the teams traded baskets, Nebraska finally pulled even at 40 when Evan Taylor banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key. But Holman scored the next five points for Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs scored 10 of the final 15 points in the quarter to take a 50-45 lead into the final period.
Nebraska came out strong in the fourth quarter, opening the period on a 6-0 run. The Huskers capped the run on a pair of Palmer free throws, which gave Nebraska a 51-50 advantage, NU’s first lead since the six-minute mark of the first quarter. After falling behind, Mississippi State responded with an 11-2 run to build its largest lead at 61-53 with 1:45 remaining. Nebraska missed 10 of 11 shots during the Bulldogs’ run, but back-to-back baskets from Roby and Gill cut the lead to four with 42.8 seconds remaining. MSU then closed out the victory by making 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch.
*-Nebraska finishes with a 22-11 record, as the 22 wins tied for the second-highest total in school history.
*-Nebraska made its 18th NIT appearance in school history and first since the 2010-11 season.
*-With the loss, Nebraska falls to 23-17 all-time in the NIT.
*-Nebraska is 0-2 all-time against Mississippi State
*-With 13 points tonight, James Palmer Jr. moved into eighth place on NU’s single-season scoring list, passing Jaron Boone (1995), Andrew White III (2016) and Terran Petteway (2015). Palmer, who finished the season with 568 points, also reached double figures for the 31st time this season. He also tied his season high with two blocked shots,
*-With four free throw attempts, Palmer tied Kimani Ffriend’s school record of 221 set in 1999-2000. Palmer also finished fourth on NU’s single-season free throw attempt list.
*-Isaiah Roby finished the season with eight straight double figure performances, as he finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Roby also grabbed seven or more rebounds in each of NU’s last eight contests.
*-Nebraska’s five turnovers tied a season low (also at Michigan State)
*-Nebraska finished with 182 blocked shots, a total which is third on NU’s single-season list and the most since 1997.
*-Isaac Copeland reached double figures for the 23rd time this season with 12 points (17-5 entering tonight)
*-Tonight marked only the second time all season that Nebraska lost consecutive games (Dec. 9-16).