NCAA hopeful Nebraska beats No. 9 Wisconsin 77-68
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Tim Miles is tired of hearing about the old Nebraska program that made a habit of bumbling and stumbling its way through the past two decades. His players must be tired of it, too.
Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway scored 26 points apiece, and the Cornhuskers beat No. 9 Wisconsin 77-68 on Sunday night to strengthen the school’s chance for its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998.
The Huskers (19-11, 11-7) won for the 10th time in 12 games to clinch fourth place in the Big Ten for their highest conference finish since 1997-98. The Badgers (25-6, 12-6) had their longest conference win streak since 1940-41 end at eight games.
”That’s what we want Husker basketball to be about and that’s what we want it to continue to be about,” Miles said. ”We’ve had a good run, a really good run. But we’re only halfway through the journey.”
Miles, in his second year at Nebraska, said the hard times the previous two coaches endured don’t exist in his mind.
”This is my program. We don’t carry any baggage,” he said. ”Everywhere we’ve been, I’ve been surrounded by great people and we win, and we’re going to keep doing it. So all that cursed crap, all of the hexing and vexing and all that (stuff) that goes with it is exactly that.”
The whole season has seemed like a new era for the program, and never more than Sunday night.
The game was billed as ”No-Sit Sunday,” with Miles imploring fans to stay on their feet the whole game. The amped-up sellout crowd of 15,998 at Pinnacle Bank Arena lived up to the occasion, helping the Huskers beat Wisconsin for the first time in five meetings since they joined the Big Ten three years ago.
Nebraska picked up a second win against a top-10 team for the first time since 1993-94. The other one was at then-No. 9 Michigan State on Feb. 16. The Huskers won 11 conference games for the first time since 1965-66.
”We have to keep it going and not let our heads get big and just stay modest and keep humble,” Shields said. ”Keep our underdog thing going.”
Shields made a couple free throws, Ray Gallegos hit a 3 and Shields dunked in transition to start a 12-1 run that turned a 52-48 deficit into a 60-53 lead with 5 minutes left.
”Win the game, get in the tournament,” Shields said, describing the Huskers’ mindset coming into the day.
When the buzzer sounded, Nebraska’s student section rushed the court and bounced to the music. Now the Huskers go to Indianapolis for the Big Ten tournament, where they’ll play Ohio State or Purdue on Friday.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan wasn’t interested in discussing his team’s NCAA seeding possibilities.
”I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” he said. ”You guys don’t know me. No. 1 seed for what? We’re the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament. That’s the only thing I know.”
The Badgers were runners-up to Michigan in the regular season and will open the Big Ten tournament on Friday against Minnesota or Penn State.
Frank Kaminsky led Wisconsin with 14 points. Nigel Hayes added 12, Josh Gasser had 11 and Ben Brust finished with 10.
On top of a Nebraska defense that held Wisconsin to 43-percent shooting, the Badgers struggled at the free-throw line, making just 11 of 21.
”We just didn’t do the things necessary to win the basketball game. That’s what it boils down to,” Kaminsky said. ”We had a scouting report and we let them get away with some things.”
Kaminsky’s 3-pointer gave Wisconsin its last lead before the Huskers went on their decisive run.
”Once we got the lead, we weren’t going to give it back,” Petteway said.
The stage was set early on for a big night at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Gallegos and fellow senior Mike Peltz were honored, with Peltz taking the festivities to the next level when he got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend at center court with his teammates jumping around behind him. She said yes.
Miles narrated a video tribute to the fans and, for the first time, the team ran onto the court through a fog machine. A card section was set up in the south end zone, with students raising a giant red ”N” against a white backdrop before tipoff.