Huskers Advance in NIT With Win Over Butler
The Nebraska men’s basketball team erased an early 12-point deficit and behind a big second half, the Huskers posted their first postseason victory in 11 years Wednesday night with an 80-76 win over Butler in a first-round NIT matchup at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Huskers (19-16) trailed midway through the second half before a game-changing 14-2 run turned a one-point deficit into a 12-point lead. Nebraska then made enough plays down the stretch, winning by four points after Butler cut the lead to one with 1:31 remaining.
With the win – Nebraska first postseason victory since a 67-48 win over Charlotte in the first round of the 2008 NIT – the Huskers advanced to the second round to face TCU in Fort Worth, Texas Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. (CT). Nebraska improved to 16-1 all-time at home in the NIT, and the Huskers are 3-0 against Big East teams this season. Butler, which was making its 13th postseason appearance in the last 14 years, saw its season end with a 16-17 record.
Isaiah Roby paced the Huskers with a career-high 28 points, and he just missed a double-double after grabbing a game-high eight rebounds. James Palmer added 23 points, while Glynn Watson Jr. scored 17 points, as Nebraska’s big three combined for 68 of NU’s 80 points. Tanner Borchardt and Johnny Trueblood added six points each to account for Nebraska's other 12 points. The Huskers’ 80 points were their most in eight postseason games, dating back to the 2004 NIT, when Nebraska scored 83 points in a one-point loss at Hawaii.
Sean McDermott had 14 points for Butler, which had four players in double figures. Paul Jorgensen chipped in 12 points, while Jordan Tucker and Aaron Thompson each scored 11 points, with Thompson adding a career-high 12 assists for his first career double-double.
Butler scored 14 of the game’s first 16 points to jump out to a 12-point lead less than five minutes into the contest. But Nebraska responded with an immediate 7-0 run of its own. Roby scored all seven points during the spurt, as the junior scored Nebraska’s first 11 points of the game.
Watson became the first Husker other than Roby to score when he knocked down a 3-pointer at the 9:02 mark to pull Nebraska within five. The 3-pointer ignited a 6-0 Husker run that trimmed the lead to two. A 5-0 Nebraska run two minutes later tied the game at 22-all, before Butler came right back with five straight points. But Palmer scored seven straight points to give Nebraska its first lead at 29-27 with one minute left in the half, and the Huskers took a one-point lead into the locker room.
Roby scored 17 points in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, while the rest of the Husker lineup was just 4-for-21 from the floor. Butler shot 44 percent in the first half, and the Bulldogs were 8-of-16 from the 3-point line.
Both teams came out on fire to start the second half, which saw eight lead changes in the first four minutes. Nebraska made its first six shots from the floor and used a 7-0 run to build a four-point lead. Butler answered with its own 7-0 run to regain the lead at 50-49 with 11:14 remaining, but the Bulldog’s would only lead once more.
Nebraska erased the Butler advantage with a 14-2 run, capped by a string of 10 consecutive points that put the Huskers up 64-53 with 6:26 to play. The Bulldogs pulled to within six two minutes later on back-to-back 3-pointers from McDermott. Butler continued to chip away and used an 8-2 run to pull within one at 71-70 with 1:31 remaining. But Nebraska scored seven of the next nine points and the Huskers hit all four of their free throws in the final minute, finishing 17-of-20 from the line in the second half.
The Huskers were 15-of-23 from the field in the second half, shooting a blistering 65.2 percent. Palmer (15), Watson (11) and Roby (11) each scored in double figures in the second half, while Trueblood had all six of his career-high six points in the final 20 minutes.
The Huskers will take on TCU, an 82-69 win over Sam Houston State, in the second round Sunday evening at 8:30 p.m. The game will be televised on the Husker Sports Network and carried on ESPNU.