LINCOLN — Nebraska secured its first postseason victory in more than a decade with a 80-76 win over Butler on Wednesday night.
Isaiah Roby scored a career-high 28 points for NU, followed closely behind James Palmer’s 23 points and five rebounds.
Nebraska led by as many as 12 with 6:06 left in the game, but Butler cut that down to one in the final 90 seconds.
A hook shot from Roby gave NU a 4-point lead with less than 30 seconds left. A steal and free throws from Watson sealed the win.
Nebraska is now 19-16 on the year, and will play 1-seed TCU in the second round of the NIT this weekend.
The Huskers have now won 4 of 5 games, which hasn’t happened since contests between Dec. 2. to Dec. 22. Every game has been won with less than seven players seeing playing time.
Three different Bulldogs made 3-pointers in the first four minutes to spring out to an 14-2 lead. Butler dropped into a 3-2 zone, similar to what Iowa did to bother Nebraska earlier in the year. Nebraska missed four of its first five shots, turned the ball over twice, and fell into a hole.
But Nebraska began to feed Roby and he closed the gap. The junior scored Nebraska’s first 11 points while the rest of the team missed its first 8 from the field. His fifth bucket of the night pulled Nebraska to 19-16 with eight minutes left.
A Watson 3-pointer, his second of the night, tied the game at 22.
A 7-0 run in the final 90 seconds gave Nebraska its first lead of the game at 29-27. Jordan Tucker hit Butler’s eighth 3-pointer of the half. Roby responded with a dunk over half the Bulldogs to give NU a 31-30 halftime lead.
Roby had 17 at the break, his only miss coming at the buzzer from 30 feet. Nebraska had 10 assists on 11 made field goals in the first, shot 38 percent form the floor and out-scored Butler 16-6 in the paint.
A 4-point play from Paul Jorgensen gave Butler a 34-33 lead seconds into the second half. The teams traded leads five times over the next four minutes until Palmer made his first 3-pointer from the corner. The senior scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the second half, finishing the game with 23 . NU went up 48-42.
But an 8-2 run capped off by a towering 3-pointer from Jorgensen gave the Bulldogs a 50-49 lead. He shushed the crowd as he ran back on defense. Nebraska was once one of the best 3-point defenses in the country, but Butler made 10 of its first 20 shots from 3-point range, 12 in total.
After the shushing, Nebraska countered with a 14-2 run of its own, scoring primarily at the bucket. Butler started to miss some easy shots. A crowd of more than 10,000 started to get under the Bulldogs’ skin while Nebraska took
control of the game.
Butler failed to score for more than three minutes, while Nebraska made five of six shots.
A drive and dish from Trueblood to Tanner Borchardt gave NU a 62-53 lead. Nebraska led by 12 after two Watson free throws.
Two quick 3-pointers from McDermott on back to back possessions cut that in half before the final media timeout.
In the final minutes, Butler sought contact and the rim. An and-1 from Jordan Tucker cut it to 71-70 with 93 seconds left. Palmer put NU up two scores on a transition lay in but Christian David score quickly seconds later to keep it within one possession.
Roby and Watson closed out the game, and kept Nebraska’s season alive.