MADISON, Wis. — Maybe this Nebraska team really is different.
On the road, in foul trouble and in a building where they had never won, the Huskers took another huge step in their quest for postseason play with a 74-63 win over Wisconsin on Monday night at the Kohl Center.
Nebraska, down 11 with 9:59 left, outscored Wisconsin 30-8 to end the game.
"What’s great to see is some guys who have been through some real losing stay in there and battle and learn how to win," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said after his team improved to 17-8 overall and 8-4 in the Big Ten. "And some of those older veteran guys that have been transfers or whatever play with a fearlessness that, 'we can do this.'
The Huskers indeed did do it. Mixing in a full-court, trapping 1-3-1 defense that hadn't been practiced much while moving players around in that zone, and spreading the floor to attack the rim off the dribble offensively.
James Palmer, as he's done most of the last month, led the charge.
The junior guard scored 21 of his 28 points in the second half, going 6-of-11 from the field and 8-of-9 at the free throw line over the final 20 minutes. Palmer added a team-high eight rebounds.
It was Palmer's layup with 4:30 left that put the Huskers up for good at 60-58.
"It (the win" says we're a tough, hard-nosed team," Palmer said. "And we don't back down no matter how much we're down."
Isaac Copeland continued his torrid offensive pace, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting and scoring 10 after halftime. And he did it while saddled with four fouls for the game's final 10:27.
"We stayed positive," Copeland said. "Everybody on the bench, whether you were playing, weren't playing at all, the game's not going your way; we just stayed together and picked each other up."
And Glynn Watson played one of his most complete games of the season, scoring 15 points to go with five assists while pressuring the ball in Nebraska's man-to-man before playing in the middle of the 1-3-1.
Watson, along with Evan Taylor, took turns in the middle of the zone. Palmer, normally at the top, moved to the wing.
The changes helped frustrate Happ and slow Wisconsin's offense to a crawl.
The victory was Nebraska’s first at Wisconsin since 1990. And the Huskers had to rally from an 11-point deficit with 10 minutes left to do it.
It was Nebraska’s defense, seemingly handcuffed by foul trouble from the opening tip, that gave the Huskers the opportunity.
Wisconsin (10-13, 3-7 Big Ten) made only two field goals down the stretch and finished just 16-of-31 at the free throw line.
Ethan Happ, who spent much of the night getting Nebraska’s front court into heaps of foul trouble, didn’t make a field goal for the game’s final 14 minutes and still finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots.
But the standout junior forward also had four turnovers, two coming during Nebraska’s second-half comeback.
Khalil Iverson, whose dunk put the Badgers up 11, finished with 13 points and five boards.
No other Badgers reached double figures. Outside of Happ and Iverson, the other seven Wisconsin players to see the floor combined to go 7 for 19 for 25 points.
"It felt like we were just fixing all night, just trying to manage the game and fix things, solve problems," Miles said. "But then when we got in that rhythm, they really played well off each other."