Nebraska basketball empties bench in 29-point loss at Michigan, drops to 13th place in Big Ten

Nebraska basketball empties bench in 29-point loss at Michigan, drops to 13th place in Big Ten
The Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It was never close. It was never in question.

No. 9 Michigan obliterated Nebraska 82-53 on Thursday night.

On national television, Nebraska fell behind by 20 in the first 15 minutes and never got closer.

The Wolverines were hardly challenged on either end. UM shot 56 percent from the floor, made 12 of 22 3-point attempts and suffocated Nebraska’s offense, forcing long, contested jumpers and keeping NU off the boards.

James Palmer, Isaiah Roby and Thomas Allen were scoreless in the first 20 minutes. All three sat for the first eight minutes of the second half. They combined for 15 total points on 6 of 27 shooting.

“Games are rarely decided at halftime,” coach Tim Miles said on his radio show postgame. “But, you know, they came out very aggressive.”

Nana Akenten scored a team-high 11 points off the bench in 10 minutes of play. He left in the second half after getting up slowly following a hard fall. Allen left in the second half, too. Miles said after the game he’s worried Allen’s injury is “significant.”

Michigan 7-foot center Jon Teske finished with a career-high 22 points. He set the tone for the game early, burying his second 3-pointer on a blown assignment by Nebraska. Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis added 20 points of his own.

Michigan (25-4, 14-4) remains in the hunt for a Big Ten title. Nebraska now has the second-worst conference record in the Big Ten and has lost 10 of its last 12 games.

As has been the case in Nebraska’s last four trips outside of Lincoln, the mentality of the team helped contribute to a 20-point deficit quickly, Miles said. Players didn’t follow the game plan and didn’t battle down low for loose balls.

“Michigan is playing for a championship,” Miles said. “And we talked about that with our guys. We talked about the energy and the focus and how hard we have to play, and we just didn’t.”

Nebraska missed 17 of its first 22 shots and trailed 43-21 at the break.

Miles started the second half without Palmer, Roby and Allen as a message to the team. The move received praise from ESPN commentator Dan Dakich.

“There is nobody on Nebraska’s bench that deserves to play. Nobody,” Dakich said.

Miles said it was a gut check. He wanted those three to watch some guys play hard.

And Nebraska actually did. Thanks to seven straight points from Nana Akenten, NU outscored the Wolverines 11-7 in the opening minutes and cut the lead to 18.

Nebraska’s bench, a liability all season, scored 17 of the team’s first 30 points.

But the short spurt did little damage. A three-point play followed by a 3-pointer from Jordan Poole put Michigan up 57-32 with about 13 minutes left.

Just before the under-8 media timeout, Allen limped to the locker room with a twisted ankle. Soon after, the teams put in walk-ons to finish the blowout.

Nebraska’s bench was barren, with two empty white seats where Allen and Akenten would have sat. Isaac Copeland leaned back in his black tracksuit and watched the final minutes.

Nebraska limped to the finish depleted, dejected. The scene was a depressing reminder of how far the season has fallen.

And up next for NU is No. 6 Michigan State. Another Big Ten title contender.

“We gotta get our mind right, and we have to understand what Michigan State is playing for,” Miles said. “If we don’t at least meet or exceed that kind of mentality in terms of aggressiveness and physicality, then this could happen again.”