Nebraska men’s basketball was knocked out in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Chicago — On Wednesday, Nebraska’s season likely came to an abrupt end in a game that surprised not only for its outcome but also for how it ended. Minnesota, the league’s worst team and one the Huskers had previously defeated twice this season, defeated the Huskers 78-75.

The Huskers had numerous late chances to win a game they had been trailing for nearly 30 minutes.

Fred Hoiberg, the head coach of Nebraska, said after the game, “Unfortunately, we just could not quite get over the hump.” We tried about four times to get that thing to one point, but we just couldn’t get it over the hump.

Nebraska trailed by a few possessions for most of the second half, but caught a break when junior forward Jamison Battle, the Golden Gophers’ second-leading scorer, fouled out with nine minutes left.

Nebraska was sent twice to the free throw line in a single trip after Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson received a technical foul. Sam Griesel, a senior guard, and Keisei Tominaga, a junior guard, each scored two points to bring the score to 60-57. Ta’lon Cooper, a junior guard for Minnesota, hit a three-pointer, but Tominaga, who scored 23 points, hit one of his own on the other end. Griesel responded with a hook shot to close the gap to one point.

However, Minnesota scored from three points and led by five minutes later. With a putback, Tominaga brought it back to three. When freshman forward Jaden Henley hit a last-ditch 3-pointer to beat the shot clock, sophomore guard CJ Wilcher was called for a foul, and Minnesota looked like they were ready to give Nebraska another chance. He made every one of the three free tosses to put his group ahead 73-67 with a 3:22 to go.

From there, Griesel scored four points in a row to bring the Huskers back within a score. Nebraska had arguably its two best chances of the night to take control, but in the closing two minutes, the Golden Gophers were called for offensive fouls on consecutive possessions.

From that point on, the Huskers were forced to play the foul game on the other end. Cooper, who had a free throw shooting percentage of 59% going into the game, made 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch and 8-of-10 overall. Nevertheless, Nebraska maintained its position for strike. Griesel bounced back a missed free toss from Cooper in the last ten seconds and stunned it to the opposite side of the court before the ball was taken too far out. The initial call in favor of Nebraska was overturned after review, and with one second remaining, the Golden Gophers took control.

The Gophers made their first and second free throws, but Nebraska fouled out right away, giving it one more chance. The Huskers’ brief stay in the Windy City was effectively ended when Tominaga was found by Griesel near midcourt for a potential tying heave. However, the ball went off the back of the rim and was blocked.

Hoiberg thought his team started poorly, falling behind 18-16, a lead Minnesota never gave up, despite Nebraska taking an 8-0 lead.

Minnesota made 15 of its last 21 shots before the break and 58% of its shots in the first period overall as it went bonkers on the United Center nets  After the Golden Gophers maintained their lead, Nebraska responded with an 8-3 run sparked by Jamarques Lawrence, a freshman guard, making his third three-pointer of the half to bring the score to 37-33 at halftime.

After the break, the Gophers didn’t slow down at all. They scored twice before the Huskers did, and they quickly increased their lead to double digits. The Huskers parried, preparing themselves for the opportunities to shift the momentum mentioned earlier, but they were unable to convert.

Griesel added 12 rebounds and four assists to his total of 16 points, all of which came in the second half. Derrick Walker, a senior forward, scored 12 points, and Lawrence had a team-high five assists.

Cooper contributed 16 points and 12 assists, and junior forward Dawson Garcia led Minnesota with 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Huskers fall back to.500 for the tenth time this season, going 16-16 overall, as the Golden Gophers finish with a conversion rate of 52% compared to Nebraska’s 44%. They will wait to hear what happens in the postseason, but a bid to the NIT doesn’t seem likely right away after Wednesday’s result. Despite this, the Huskers had a successful season by most standards, winning four Quad 1 games and winning nine Big Ten games for the first time since 2017-18.

Griesel said after the game, “With what this group did and for me personally why I came here, it’s more of a smile because it happened.”

Since Griesel and Walker are both in their final year of eligibility, the game may mark the end of their collegiate careers. Tominaga, who is playing JUCO and NCAA Division I college basketball for the fourth time, will also have to make a choice. He could return for a fifth year of eligibility or look for work, probably in Japan, where he was born. He said after the game that he doesn’t know what he wants to do next.

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