Huskers need Big Ten tourney win to boost NCAA hopes; Michigan aims to avenge loss to NU

Huskers need Big Ten tourney win to boost NCAA hopes; Michigan aims to avenge loss to NU
Michigan said it had to re-evaluate its style of play after a 72-52 loss at Nebraska on Jan. 18. (World-Herald News Service)

NEW YORK — It was hardly the venom that comes with playing a hated rival.

But it was apparent in interviews after fifth-seeded Michigan subdued 12th-seeded Iowa 77-71 in overtime Thursday that it welcomes another chance to play Nebraska. That comes at 1:30 p.m. CST Friday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament when two teams that have won eight of their past nine games meet.

“When you lose to a team once, you want to prove that you’re better than that,’’ Michigan forward Moritz Wagner said. “So definitely.’’

Nebraska (22-9) and Michigan (25-7) met Jan. 18 in Lincoln. The Huskers rolled to a 72-52 victory over the Wolverines, ranked No. 23 then and No. 15 now.

“We kind of looked helpless at Nebraska,’’ said Wagner, who averages 14.4 points but had only two in 32 minutes that night. “They did some things defensively that we weren’t used to.

“It was the first time this season we had to step up, but we really didn’t find a way. I think we are much better now.’’

Incidentally, Nebraska also wanted a rematch with Michigan, in search of more ballast for its NCAA tournament résumé. The Huskers, 59th in the NCAA RPI, are in need of all quality wins possible. They couldn’t afford to play 167th Iowa instead of 26th Michigan.

“I know they are gunning for us,’’ Michigan forward Duncan Robinson said. “They feel they’re in a do-or-die situation. So we have to match their intensity.’’

In the January game, Nebraska used its smaller-but-longer lineup to switch on every screen against Michigan. The Wolverines were held to their second-worst shooting game (37.5 percent) and hit what was a season-low 4 of 18 3-pointers until making only 3 of 19 Thursday against Iowa.

Michigan guard Jordan Poole said the Nebraska loss forced some re-evaluating of style of play.

“Because that was really the first time a team switched everything on defense, we’ve been practicing for it ever since,’’ he said. “Being able to key in on that so it’s not new anymore is good. I feel like it will be a different type of game.’’

Michigan nearly frittered away its chance for a Nebraska rematch.

Iowa led 40-35 at halftime, got a tying 3-pointer from guard Jordan Bohannon with 16.3 seconds left to force overtime, then got the first basket of the extra period. But the Wolverines held the Hawkeyes without a field goal in the final 4:29.

Michigan can’t afford to play too many more games like Thursday and expect to defend its Big Ten tourney title.

Besides going 3 of 19 on 3s (15.8 percent), the Wolverines made just 18 of 32 free throws (58.3 percent) and had its Nos. 1 and 3 scorers — Wagner and guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — saddled with early foul trouble before fouling out.

Wagner played just 16 minutes, still scoring 11 points. Abdur-Rahkman had nine points in 22 minutes.

“We had to win today in a little different way and with some different people on the floor,’’ Abdur-Rahkman said. “You want to win to keep advancing toward the championship no matter how.

“But it would be good to get a win against Nebraska after what happened the first time.’’

Nebraska coach Tim Miles said he wants his team to employ “singled-minded thinking’’ toward winning the Big Ten tournament.

“If you’re worried about how many you’ve got to win (for an NCAA bid) or you’re putting emotional energy into the Internet or what’s going on out there, you’re probably wasting your energy,’’ he said. “At this time of year, nobody needs to do that.’’


» Nebraska practiced for two hours Thursday at The Baruch College in Manhattan. The newer facility is used by some visiting NBA teams when Madison Square Garden isn’t available for a workout.

» Husker assistant Kenya Hunter scouted the Michigan vs. Iowa game.

» Miles said the double-bye to Friday’s quarterfinals was good in terms of freshening legs and healing up bumps and bruises. But he had some concern about having four days off in between the regular-season finale and the tourney opener.

» The Huskers played 10 games in 28 days of January, then six in February’s 28 days. He said his team likes to be busy, as shown by its 7-0 record in games with zero or one day of preparation.

Big Ten tournament: Nebraska vs. Michigan

When: 1:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

TV/Radio: KNCY 1600 AM, 105.5 FM

Nebraska (22-9)

F Isaiah Roby, 6-8, So., 8.4, 6.2

F Isaac Copeland, 6-9, Jr., 13.2, 6.3

G James Palmer, 6-6, Jr., 17.4, 4.4

G Anton Gill, 6-3, Sr., 8.2, 1.8

G Glynn Watson, 6-0, Jr., 10.5, 3.3

Michigan (25-7)

F Moritz Wagner, 6-11, Jr., 14.4, 7.2

F Isaiah Livers, 6-7, Fr., 4.0, 2.3

G M.A. Abdur-Rahkman, 6-4, Sr., 12.3, 3.9

G Charles Matthews, 6-6, Jr., 13.0, 5.4

G Zavier Simpson, 6-0, So., 6.9, 2.8

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