MADISON, Wis. — Trailing by double digits in the second half, Nebraska seemed on the verge of a resume-crushing loss to a struggling Wisconsin team.
But a switch to a 1-3-1 zone on the defensive end and a scrapping of their sets for a spread-motion offense allowed the Cornhuskers to pull off an important comeback win.
James Palmer Jr. scored 28 points and keyed the second-half comeback, as Nebraska rallied for a 74-63 victory on Monday night.
“Those last 10 minutes, when you are playing four games in eight days, three on the road, that’s pretty good fight out of your team to see them come out of here with a W,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said.
The Cornhuskers trailed by 11 points midway through the second half but held the Badgers to just eight points over the final nine minutes to extend their winning streak to three games.
A spinning, one-handed dunk by Khalil Iverson gave Wisconsin a 55-44 advantage, but the Cornhuskers answered with 10 straight points to pull within 55-54 with 7:28 to play and continued rolling.
Keying the comeback for Nebraska was a zone that had Wisconsin flummoxed.
“We decided to be more aggressive with it, pick up full and trap a little bit just to try and change the momentum of the game,” Miles said. “Both of those things kind of worked hand in hand and you could just see our guys growing in confidence.”
Palmer scored 16 points during a 30-8 Nebraska run to close the game, including a layup that gave the Cornhuskers their first lead of the second half with 4:35 remaining.
Isaac Copeland added 17 points and Glynn Watson Jr. had 15 for Nebraska (17-8, 8-4 Big Ten).
“The inability to score or missing free throws affected what we were doing defensively,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “We weren’t as sharp or as fine-tuned as what we had been for the first 30 minutes.
“Palmer did what he wanted at certain points, specifically when they needed it.”
After trailing the majority of the first half, Nebraska went on a 9-1 run to take a 30-29 lead on a pair of free throws by Palmer with 1:13 left in the first half.
But Ethan Happ scored the final three points of the half, including a layup just before the buzzer, to give the Badgers a 32-30 halftime advantage.
Happ led Wisconsin (10-13, 3-7) with 25 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and four blocks. Iverson added 13 points and five rebounds.
Nebraska: The second-half comeback was big for a Cornhuskers team gaining momentum toward its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2014. Nebraska now has won three straight and 10 of 13.
Wisconsin: A disappointing season continues for the Badgers, as Wisconsin let a win slip through its fingers and lost for the third consecutive game.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Wisconsin missed nine free throws in the second half and finished 16 of 31 from the foul line. Happ went 8 of 19 from the field and from the charity stripe.
After the Badgers led 55-44, Palmer scored six quick points to help the Cornhuskers cut the deficit to 55-54 in the span of just 2 minutes, 31 seconds.
Nebraska will have the rest of the week off from game action before playing at Minnesota on Feb. 6.
Wisconsin hosts Northwestern on Thursday. The Badgers and Wildcats will meet twice over the final four weeks of the regular season.