Huskers Snap Their Losing Streak - Miles Still on the Hot Seat
Nebraska started very strong with an 11-1 record but got attacked by injuries. They didn't have enough good players to sustain their good mark. They have the potential but not executing it. Time is striking zero on their season. Minnesota is flying under the radar and lacking headlines, but not doing well as of late in the season. Minnesota won the first meeting of this year's series, 85-78. Read on to see how these two teams clashed for the second time during the season, this time in Lincoln instead of Minneapolis.
Despite a win, Nebraska is sailing under their high expectations this year. Tim Miles may be fired after this season. The Huskers have not reached the NCAA March Madness Tournament (16 seeds total in four regions) since 2014, which they barely made it in with a 19-12 record. They were the 12 seed and lost to No. 5 Baylor in the first round. Tim Miles' team went 13-5 in the Big Ten and scraped together 22 wins. That only got Nebraska a five seed in the NIT (eight seeds total in four regions). In 2019, they started strong (11-2 to be 13-4). That practically got jinxed as they got downed seven consecutive games to be 13-11. That stretch was hard for the Husker fans. With this win recently, it got them to 14-11. For Miles to save his job, he'd at least have to bring the Huskers back to the March Madness field. At least, the Huskers have to make a very deep run in the NIT.
The Big Ten had two games on Wednesday. One to highlight was the crazy finish to Nebraska and Minnesota. Nebraska has been on a skid of seven games, their worst mark in four years. They have quickly diminished out of the postseason picture. Minnesota isn't doing that much better, dropping their last three games. This game would certainly be a key factor to the selection committee come Selection Sunday. Both teams desperately needed a win, and Nebraska prevailed. The connected on two free throws over the final seconds which lifted the Cornhuskers over the Golden Gophers. Nebraska stole a much-needed victory. That valuable win lifted the Huskers to 4-10 in conference play (14-11 overall). The Golden Gophers plummeted down to 6-8 in the conference and 16-9 overall.
James Palmer won the game off two free throws, which did the job for Nebraska. This was off a very questionable foul called on Amir Coffey with 1.1 seconds left in regulation. Thanks to Nebraska's coverage defense at the narrow end of the game, Minnesota could not get a shot off before the clock struck zero on the Gophers. Palmer finished with 24 points for the game.
"It definitely feels good for us," Palmer states after the game. "We were working hard. We lost seven in a row, but even in practice, we were going hard. We wanted to focus, come out with a defensive mentality. Thanks to the fans for really showing support tonight. We appreciate it."
Jordan Murphy had 19 points, Daniel Oturu had 16, and Amir Coffey added 11. Yet, they still could not defeat Nebraska. The Huskers had not won since January 14. Minnesota's largest losing streak this season continues and they've lost six in a row in Lincoln. The Gophers now lost seven of their last eight road games this season. Nebraska ended their nightmare and got revenge on the Gophers. Nebraska shot 50.0% from the field, their best since their 53.3% effort on December 8 vs Creighton. Tim Miles coached his 50th Big Ten victory. He is the fourth coach to reach that achievement.
At this late in the season, Nebraska's 4-10 record would not be enough to get into the tournament. Fortunately, due to a strong non-conference performance and sustaining a winning record, they do have a shot. They had promising wins over Seton Hall, Clemson, and Creighton who are all on the bubble. Another key factor for them is that the Big Ten vastly improved from last year. Nebraska stays home to play Northwestern on Saturday. Minnesota suffered a painful loss yesterday and will be a hard one to continue. They cannot lose any time as they will aim to rebound against Indiana at home, also on Saturday.
A hard-fought Husker victory will be debated for the next month and will boost their resume. Minnesota has now dropped four in a row.
In the other Big Ten showdown Wednesday (earlier than Minnesota @ Nebraska), Rutgers outlasted Northwestern at home. The score was tied at 22 all at halftime. Rutgers took over at the second half and won by three. Northwestern falls back to .500 overall at 12-12. They are 3-10 in the conference. Rutgers rises to 5-9 in the Big Ten and 12-12 overall.