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Huskers’ season ends with NIT loss at TCU

March 25, 2019

FORT WORTH, Texas — A season that began with aspirations of playing in front of sold-out arenas and making history ended quietly in front of a few thousand fans in an old Texas cow town.

Nebraska is done playing basketball in 2018-19 after a late Sunday night loss to TCU in the second round of the NIT.

The Horned Frogs’ 88-72 victory left the Huskers with a season record of 19-17, and a long list of what-ifs and could-have-beens as they head into an uncertain offseason.

Seven years to the day after he was announced as Nebraska’s head coach in 2012, Tim Miles said after the game that as far as he knew, his job status remained unchanged, and he expects to meet with athletic director Bill Moos sometime in the coming days.

“I’ve talked to Bill after the games. He’s been great to me — congratulations, good battle — but I have not been privy to anything (regarding my job status) at this point in time,” Miles said.

NU isn’t scheduled to fly back to Lincoln until Monday morning. What happens in the coming days and weeks after that remains to be seen.

“I’m sure I’ll have a chance to meet with Bill, and go from there. It’s never easy, and it affects a lot of people — my staff and families and those things,” Miles said. “But no matter what, I know there will be a time for reflection and a time to say, OK, where can we get better, what are we missing, and how can we go forward.”

James Palmer led Nebraska, scoring all 19 of his points in the second half. His layup just past the midway point of the second half lifted him past Dave Hoppen into first all-time at Nebraska for points in a single season. Palmer finished the season with 708 points. Hoppen had 704 in 1984-85.

Gothenberg senior Tanner Borchardt went out in style, scoring a career-high 16 points on 6-for-6 shooting and adding a game-high 13 rebounds.

Glynn Watson had 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists in his final game as a Husker, and leaves NU with his name all over the program’s record books — first in games played, second in starts, tied four fourth in steals and three-pointers, tied for seventh in assists and 11th in points scored.

Playing woefully short-handed while rumors about their coach’s job status swirled and intensified, the Huskers put on an inspiring run starting with a miracle comeback in the dying moments against Iowa, and continuing with two wins — and nearly a third — in the Big Ten Tournament.

Given a chance to salvage something of its season, Nebraska roared back from a 14-2 deficit against Butler in front of one of the rowdiest Pinnacle Bank Arena crowds of the season to earn Sunday’s date against the Horned Frogs.

But the magic ran out. Nebraska lost on the road for the seventh consecutive time to end the season. The Huskers’ last true road win in 2019 came on Jan. 14 — more than two months and what has to feel like years ago.

For the sixth time in those seven games, Nebraska fell behind by double digits. In the other, the Huskers trailed by eight. NU led for just more than two minutes Sunday night, and the Huskers never led by more than two. Their last lead came midway through the first half.

“We got into foul trouble, and that threw off the rhythm of the game a little bit early,” Watson said. “But we were still in it regardless of being short players. But they made shots, they made us play off the pick and roll, and that was really it.”

James Palmer went scoreless in the first half on 0-for-10 shooting. Isaiah Roby played just 12 first-half minutes while picking up three fouls.

Roby got his fourth early in the second half, and was ejected with 11:59 left after being called for a Flagrant 2 foul. Roby and TCU’s Kendric Davis both dove for a loose ball, with Davis getting there first. Davis was slow to get off Roby, and the junior shoved Davis in frustration.

TCU (22-13) had its own roster issues, with just eight scholarship players available. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Frogs had played just even players in eight of their previous nine games.

Combine that with Nebraska’s six available scholarship players, you’d be one over the NCAA limit of 13 scholarships for one Division I men’s hoops team.

And the Horned Frogs are on a redemption tour of their own. Like Nebraska, TCU was a trendy preseason pick to make a run in its conference and get to the NCAA Tournament. Like NU, TCU spent time in the top 25 early in the season before faltering over the last two months of the regular season.

Desmond Bane powered TCU with 30 points, going 10-for-15 from the field and 6-for-9 from three-point range. He added seven rebounds was one of five Horned Frogs in double figures. TCU hit 10 three-pointers.

In the minutes after their season ended, a few of the Huskers were reflective, and even appreciative that despite backsliding in the middle of the season, they were able to salvage something at the end.

“Just finding a way to win in what seemed like an impossible scenario — six dudes, five out of seven, or whatever it was,” Borchardt said. “I’m just proud of the team. We found a way to get it done.”