Nebraska got what it deserved Monday night, getting outplayed and out-toughed by Rutgers in a 76-69 loss in Piscataway, New Jersey.
The Huskers (13-6, 3-5 Big Ten) gave up a 15-0 run, three 8-0 spurts and a 7-0 run to one of the worst power conference offenses in the nation, with the final 8-0 run coming in the final two minutes of the game after NU had rallied in spite of itself to tie the game at 67.
"I was disappointed with our mentality coming into the game, even though I thought we practiced OK," Nebraska coach Tim Miles told the Husker Sports Network on his postgame radio show. "In the pregame locker room there was talking, joking around a little bit, and I thought that set the tone for how we played, too."
The coach wasn't far off. Nebraska's first two shots smacked off the backboard without touching the rim. NU missed at least two wide-open layups in the opening minutes to go with a bushel of other misses at the rim.
"In this league it doesn't matter who you play or where you play," Miles said. "You've just got to prepare yourself for a fight every night out."
With most of its regulars in foul trouble much of the second half, Nebraska's defense was sliced up by a Rutgers offense that ranked dead-last in the Big Ten Conference in field-goal percentage and scoring offense coming into the game.
It was the third time this season Nebraska has blown a multiple-possession lead on the road against a conference opponent. Monday, the Huskers led 31-18 with 4:50 left in the first half, then were outscored 58-38 the rest of the way.
The 76 points are the most Rutgers has scored against Nebraska since joining the Big Ten in 2015. It is just the third time in eight league meetings between the teams the Scarlet Knights (9-9, 2-6) have scored more than 64 points against NU, and the second time they've scored more than 70.
The Scarlet Knights' point total was also their highest since Nov. 11, their second game of the season, when they scored 95 against a Drexel team that is now 10-11. Monday marked the first time since that Drexel contest that Rutgers scored more than 70 points in a game.
"We were up 13 (points), they go on a big run. I don't know if it was our attention to detail, mentality, mindset," Miles said. "Then the second half we have two turnovers right in a row when we're up five.
"And it's a little bit of everybody. It's not like there's one guy out there screwing it up."
James Palmer led the Huskers with 22 points, going 7-of-18 from the field. Isaac Copeland had 16 points and eight rebounds, scoring 14 points in the first half. Glynn Watson added 14 points.
Nebraska was 10-of-28 from the floor (36 percent) in the second half while being outscored 43-31 by Rutgers, which shot 47 percent after halftime and 44 percent for the game.
Trailing by seven, Nebraska rallied to tie the game at 67 with 2:02 left on Palmer's three-pointer after a scramble for the ball, and a pair of Palmer free throws on the Huskers' next possession.
A 73 percent free-throw shooting team, Nebraska went 10-for-18 (55 percent). And after going 12-for-27 on layups and dunks against Michigan State, the Huskers were 11-for-24 on such shots Monday.
Montez Mathis led Rutgers with 20 points. Geo Baker scored 13 of his 16 in the second half. Myles Johnson came off the bench to add 13 points.
Next up, Nebraska plays another team that went into Piscataway this month and got beat. NU hosts Ohio State for an 11 a.m. game Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.