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Huskers Pull Off Double-Digit Comeback to Top Wisconsin in Overtime

by Feb 2, 2024Nebraska Mens Basketball

Huskers Pull Off Double-Digit Comeback to Top Wisconsin in Overtime
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Nebraska men’s basketball rallied from a 19-point first-half deficit to defeat No. 6 Wisconsin 80-72 in overtime at Pinnacle Bank Arena Thursday night.

It was the Huskers’ second win over a top-10 team this season, making this season the first time since 2013-14 that Nebraska has defeated two top-10 teams. 

The Huskers’ win was also the first time Nebraska has defeated two top-six teams since Fred Hoiberg’s grandfather, Jerry Bush, was the coach in 1957-58.

Finding a Way

Nebraska found a way to win when things looked dire. The Huskers trailed by 16 at the half, 43-27. 

“We jumped them at halftime,” Hoiberg said. “That is about as animated as I’ve been at a halftime. To their credit, they came out and responded. That is what it is all about: you’ve got to find a way to bounce back when things aren’t going your way.” 

The Badgers’ lead was up to 18 early in the second half, but the Huskers used a 20-3 run in a 5:03 span to erase the deficit. 

“We knew the importance of this,” Hoiberg said. “I’m proud of the guys for finding a way to dig in and come back when things were not looking good.” 

C.J. Wilcher sparked the second-half comeback off the bench, scoring 16 of his team-high 22 in the second stanza. Whatever the message was at the half from Hoiberg, his team responded. 

“We clapped and we were like ‘let’s go’ and we were ready to go after that,” Wilcher said. “He doesn’t do that too often so obviously it has to take something for him to get there and it did.”

Williams the Guy?

Is Brice Williams the team’s go-to guy when it needs a basket? Is he the player that can go create a game-winning shot? That is to be determined. What we do know is with 27.6 left in the second half and the score tied at 65-65, he grabbed an offensive rebound and got fouled in the process.

Williams calmly hit both free throws and gave Nebraska its first lead of the game. He also played the most minutes (38:39) of anyone on the team. He came to Nebraska for big moments and big environments, and on Thursday he delivered on that stage.

Bench Bonus 

Juwan Gary came off the bench in his return from injury. With Wilcher’s 22 points, Nebraska’s bench outscored Wisconsin 34-10. Gary had a game-high plus/minus of plus-21. 

“Just our bench, with Juwan, I thought Sam [Hoiberg] gave us really good defensive minutes and had really good energy out there as well and obviously C.J. scored 22, so just a huge win for us with all we have coming up on the road with really, really good teams,” Hoiberg said. 

In Wilcher’s last 11 games, he has made 32 of his last 55 3-point attempts (58.2%).

“C.J. is playing with so much confidence,” Hoiberg said. “It is just so much fun to see. He puts the work in and that’s what you love, when you see that hard work paying off. He’s always coming in early and coming in extra for afternoon workouts.” 

The 34 bench points tied for Nebraska’s most in a Big Ten game this season (Iowa). The Huskers’ three bench players (Wilcher, Hoiberg and Gary) combined for a plus-minus of plus-51.

Numbers to Know

According to College Basketball Reference, since the year 2000, Wisconsin was 120-0 when leading by more than 15 points at the half. 

AP top-10 teams had won 1,458 consecutive games when leading by more than 16 points at halftime before Nebraska’s win over Wisconsin. The last loss by an AP top-10 team was No. 6 Kentucky at Mississippi State on Jan. 5, 2002.

Nebraska’s last three wins over Wisconsin have all been double-digit comebacks (10 in 2021-22; 17 in 2022-23; 19 in 2023-24).

The Huskers are 12-1 when scoring 80 or more points this season and 20-2 over the past two seasons.

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