Michigan and Nebraska wanted Friday afternoon’s matchup to take place. For Nebraska, it was a chance to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a win, but for Michigan, it was an opportunity to boost its resume and exact revenge for an earlier loss to the Cornhuskers.
The Wolverines had the hot hand all afternoon long and held on for a 77-58 win over the Cornhuskers to advance to the Big Ten Tournament semifinal.
Nebraska (22-10) wasn’t able to respond to the Wolverines’ 3-point barrage. In fact, Michigan made 11-of-23 shots from 3-point range while Nebraska shot just 30 percent from the floor.
Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman led Michigan (26-7) with 21 points. Mo Wagner wasn’t close behind with 20 and Duncan Robinson added 16 off the bench.
Michigan will get a rematch with Michigan State on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET in the tournament semifinal.
Michigan runs away with a big win
Isaiah Roby scored on the out-of-bounds play after the media timeout, making it 63-51 Michigan. Glynn Watson Jr. picked up a silly foul the next time down the floor, though, sending Zavier Simpson to the line who, surprisingly, made both. An ill-advised 3-point attempt by Watson Jr. led to a Mo Wagner layup on the other end. Another Nebraska miss forced the Cornhuskers to foul and Simpson made both yet again, making it 69-51.
Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman was fouled after a Nebraska field goal but missed the front-end of the 1-and-1. Isaiah Roby drew a foul on the other end and made just 1-of-2. Although Nebraska couldn't buy a shot, the Cornhuskers decided to start fouling with over two minutes left and Michigan was making its free throws. The Wolverines finished with a 77-58 win.
Nebraska aiming for final push
Mo Wagner cleared space in the post and drained a close-range shot. Glynn Watson Jr. responded with a three, but Duncan Robinson answered with one of his own. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman drained a 3-pointer as well and Nebraska's Tim Miles was forced to take a timeout with the score locked in at 61-42. The Huskers couldn't get anything out of the timeout, though.
Isaiah Roby drew a foul and hit two free throws to make it 61-44 in favor of Michigan with 5:19 left. Zavier Simpson was called for a loose-ball foul while scrambling to salvage a potential turnover. Roby went back to the line for a 1-and-1 and he made both. Watson Jr. sparked the Huskers with a 3-pointer to cut Michigan's lead to 12, but James Palmer Jr. fouled Abdur-Rahkman on an attempted dunk. He made both before the last media break.
Defense stymying Nebraska
Evan Taylor made two free throws out of the timeout to make it 50-37 in favor of Michigan. Jordan Poole stole the ball from James Palmer Jr. and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman made a big three on the other end. Nebraska's offense remained stagnant and an offensive foul led to another media timeout.
Michigan offense gains steam
Isaiah Roby drove the baseline out of the under-16 timeout and drew a shooting foul on a dunk attempt. He made both to cut the Michigan lead back to 10. Nebraska earned two free throws the next time down and cut the lead to eight before getting yet another defensive stop. James Palmer Jr. drew a foul from Mo Wagner, but missed his first free throw before knocking down the second. Jordan Poole stopped the Nebraska run by hitting Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman in the corner for a three.
Palmer Jr.'s baby-hook made it an eight-point game again but Wagner's pump-fake led to an open lane and a layup over a couple of defenders. Michigan got a stop on the other end and an offensive rebound, passes around the perimeter and a wide open three by Duncan Robinson extended the lead to 13. Zavier Simpson hit a circus layup to give the Wolverines a 50-35 lead heading into the under-12 timeout.
Nebraska defense continues to struggle
Both teams got off to quick starts in the second half with an Isaiah Roby dunk and Mo Wagner quick response to maintain a 10-point lead. After a Wagner steal, Zavier Simpson drove the lane for a layup on the other end despite using his off-arm to clear space. Glynn Watson Jr. had his shot blocked out of bounds by Charles Matthews, but drove, spun, turned around and scored just seconds later. Roby was then whistled for goaltending, giving the Wolverines a 40-28 lead.
Michigan holds 10-point halftime lead
After the under-four minute timeout, Duncan Robinson hit another 3-pointer to give the Wolverines a 33-15 lead. James Palmer Jr. responded with an and-one, finally giving the Cornhuskers a field goal. Nebraska's Glynn Watson Jr. picked up his third foul, which was a huge blow for the Cornhuskers. One made free throw for the Wolverines and an Isaac Copeland jumper on the other end made it 34-20 in favor of Michigan. A Nebraska stop led to Palmer Jr. getting back to the free throw line and hitting two more. Staying red-hot, Palmer Jr. stole the ball and drew yet another foul, giving him two more free throws, and he made both.
Michigan took a 34-24 lead into the half.
Wolverines putting on a show
Nebraska remained ice-cold as they missed 17-of-18 shots since starting 4-for-5. The Cornhuskers then drained 1-of-2 free throws by Isaac Copeland. The drought continued as Nebraska's Isaiah Roby blocked Charles Matthews' shot, but missed a three on the other end. Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman made the Huskers pay, hitting a 3-pointer to double Nebraska, 26-13. Anton Gill finally gave Nebraska a two-point trip, hitting a pair of free throws. Zavier Simpson answered with an easy layup. Mo Wagner snuck open down low on the next possession for an easy dunk.
Michigan gains momentum
Out of the timeout, Michigan extended its run to 13-1, but Nebraska finally made a field goal and cut the Wolverines' lead to six. Mo Wagner caught his defender falling for a ball-fake and took it baseline for an easy dunk. Jon Teske drew a foul on the Wolverines' next possession, but made just one free throw to extend the lead to nine, 21-12. Another Nebraska foul led to a media timeout with Michigan gaining momentum.
Michigan on 11-1 run
The Wolverines turned the ball over out of the timeout which is uncharacteristic for a John Beilein team. However, Nebraska couldn't capitalize and Mo Wagner buried a triple on the other end. Muhammad Ali-Abdur-Rahkman gave the Wolverines an 11-9 lead with another three, forcing a Nebraska timeout.
Nebraska turned it over after the timeout and Duncan Robinson drained a third straight 3-pointer for the Wolverines. Michigan then stole the ball and a nice 2-on-1 breakaway led to an easy bucket for Robinson, capping off an 11-0 run. A free throw by Nebraska ended the run. The Cornhuskers were then called for an offensive foul to send the game into its under-12 timeout.
Nebraska leads Michigan early
Michigan secured the opening tip but couldn't convert on its opening possession. Nebraska's Isaiah Roby went down and beat Mo Wagner for an easy layup. Wagner responded with a bank shot of his own in the post. Glynn Watson Jr. made a jumper from the corner to give the Cornhuskers a 4-2 lead, but Wagner swiped it right back with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. Anton Gill took the lead back for Nebraska with a driving layup. James Palmer Jr. hit a 3-pointer to give the Huskers a 9-5 lead heading into the under-16 timeout.
What carries more weight: Revenge for Michigan, or desperation for Nebraska?
We'll find out Friday.
The fifth-seeded Wolverines take on the fourth-seeded Cornhuskers in a Big Ten quarterfinal on Friday at Madison Square Garden.
Michigan is looking to defend its Big Ten tournament title from last season, when it ran the table as a No. 8 seed. What's more, the Wolverines (25-7) will try to avenge a 72-52 loss in the Huskers' building in January.
Michigan earned a berth in the quarterfinals with a 77-71 overtime victory over Iowa on Thursday.
Nebraska (22-9), meanwhile, is on the outside looking in when comes to the NCAA Tournament, with most projections leaving the Cornhuskers out of the mix. A run in the Big Ten tournament can change that and, obviously, a title would clinch an automatic berth, and leave any debate meaningless.
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT
No. 5 seed Michigan vs. No. 4 seed Nebraska
Tip-off: Approximately 2:30 p.m. Friday, Madison Square Garden, New York City
TV/radio: Big Ten Network/950 AM
Records: Michigan is 25-7; Nebraska is 22-9