Nebraska’s last stand is a miracle comeback win over Iowa
The last stand for this Nebraska men’s basketball team, and perhaps for Tim Miles, will go down as one of the great days in Pinnacle Bank Arena history.
Playing four scholarship players and a walk-on for the game’s final six minutes, the Huskers rallied from a nine-point deficit with 50 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime and eventually beat Iowa 93-91 Sunday on Senior Day in the final game of the regular season.
“We were just playing for Nebraska, playing for coach, and our team — each other,” said senior guard Glynn Watson. “I don’t try to pay attention to the outside things. I know they talk about (what might happen), but there’s nothing I can do; there’s nothing nobody else can do. We’ve just got to keep fighting.
“We’ve got to fight for each other.”
The Huskers fought like they have few times this season. They had to.
Nebraska, incredibly, scored 16 points just in the final 47 seconds of regulation to erase a nine-point deficit. The team that couldn’t shoot straight for most of 2019 closed the game by making nine consecutive shots and 10 of its last 11.
A Husker team that has seen every single thing go wrong for the last two months needed every single thing to go right in the game’s dying moments. And every single thing did.
“I never doubted. I never thought we were going to lose the game, even when it was one minute and we were down by nine,” James Palmer said. “I still thought we had a chance to win. Me and G (Watson) had to make some big shots.”
Boy did they. Palmer scored half of Nebraska’s 16 points in the final miraculous scramble to get the game to the extra period, including the game-tying layup with 12 seconds to go when he bulled past an Iowa defender to get to the rim. He hit two three-pointers in the rally after missing his first six.
Watson tied a career-high — first set against Iowa two years ago — by making seven three-pointers. Two came in the final 42 seconds.
If you’re doing the math, you know that the two seniors combined for 14 of Nebraska’s final 16 points in regulation. The other two? They came on a pair of free throws from freshman Amir Harris. Harris, for the season, was just 2-for-12 at the free throw line before Sunday.
“It was awesome. It was really emotional. I’m just so happy for the guys. I’m happy to walk out of Pinnacle Bank Arena with such an important win,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “They deserved it, and they worked for it so hard.
“You just kept thinking, like, ‘I think we can win. I think we can get over the top of this.’ And then at the end, just to see those guys make so many important plays, it was pretty cool stuff.”
Iowa (21-10, 10-10 Big Ten) got not one, but two shots from Jordan Bohannon, the most cold-blooded sniper in the Big Ten, that looked like they would break Nebraska’s spirit. Bohannon scored nine points in the final 2:36 of regulation.
That kind of performance has been enough to finish previous Iowa opponents. Not on this Sunday. Not even when NU starters Isaiah Roby and Tanner Borchardt went to the bench seven seconds apart in the final minute after fouling out.
But behind Palmer, Watson, some duct tape, walk-on Johnny Trueblood, and a host of role players that have been in and out of the lineup and had their own ups and downs this year, Nebraska didn’t quit.
Palmer scored 27 points and added six assists and three steals for NU. Watson scored 23, going 7-for-12 from three-point range and playing 42 of 45 minutes. Roby was brilliant before fouling out, scoring a career-high 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-4 from beyond the arc, while pulling down eight rebounds and blocking three shots.
Trueblood, the walk-on from Elkhorn South, was the first Nebraska player off the bench and played 26 minutes. He came into the game having played 37 minutes all season, and just eight in Big Ten games. His plus-minus of plus-18 was the highest of any player from either team as he finished with four assists, six rebounds and two steals.
Nebraska (16-15, 6-14) led for all of 3 minutes, 15 seconds, and the game ended in a most fitting way — Harris scored the game-winning points on a layup with 10 seconds left in OT, and Thorir Thorbjarnarson blocked a Bohannon three-pointer at the horn.
“There was never a doubt that we would come back and win this game,” Trueblood said. “We’ve always been fighting all year and some games haven’t panned out, but it finally has.
“And that just shows our resiliency. G and James hit huge shots, Amir hit the game-winner, everybody contributed.”
And for one day, the Huskers rode high again.