LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska loves to play at Pinnacle Bank Arena, and the record shows it.
No. 6 Wisconsin, on the other hand, might be getting a complex about the place.
For the second straight year, the Cornhuskers pulled off a dramatic comeback to beat the Badgers. On Thursday night, they erased an 18-point second-half deficit to win 80-72 in overtime. Last February, Nebraska erased a 17-point second-half deficit en route to an overtime win.
Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said he made sure to remind his players of that in the locker room when they were down 43-27.
“A huge win for us,” Hoiberg said. “We knew the importance of this. I’m proud of the guys for finding a way to dig in and come back when things were not looking good.”
Rienk Mast scored early in overtime to give the Huskers the lead for good, and when time expired the students spilled onto the court for the second time this season. The first was Jan. 9 when the Huskers beat then-No. 1 Purdue 88-72.
C.J. Wilcher scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half, Mast finished with 20, and the Huskers (16-6, 6-5) improved to 6-0 at home in Big Ten play and 14-1 overall.
It was Nebraska’s biggest comeback since erasing a 19-point deficit against Iowa in 2013. Since 2000, Wisconsin had been 120-0 when leading by 15 or more points at halftime.
“I thought we got completely away from what makes us good,” Badgers coach Greg Gard said. “The shots we settled for at times, turning the ball over and gambling defensively when we didn’t need to gamble ... just doing some very uncharacteristic things.”
AJ Storr matched his season high with 28 points to lead the Badgers (16-5, 9-2). Max Klesmit and Chucky Hepburn had 13 apiece.
The Huskers were coming off an embarrassing 73-51 loss at Maryland and found themselves down as many as 19 in the first half.
“Coach got on us about having our heads down,” Wilcher said. “That gave us a little spark and helped us play with a little bit of edge.”
Mast said he and his teammates were a bit taken aback by Hoiberg’s halftime speech.
“We needed that,” Mast said. “When you have a coach that’s super chill and then is super loud, it’s, ‘Come on guys.’”
Wisconsin struggled the entire second half against a more aggressive Nebraska defense. After shooting 55% in the first half, the Badgers dipped to 36% in the second and got sloppy with the ball.
When Wilcher hit a deep 3 to pull the Huskers within seven points, he beat his chest and asked the crowd for more noise. The fans obliged and were on their feet for the final 12 minutes of regulation and all of overtime.
“The roof came off the place,” Hoiberg said, adding that it was the best environment he has experienced in his five years at Nebraska.
Brice Williams’ two free throws in the final minute of regulation gave Nebraska its first lead at 67-65. Storr’s layup tied it and Mast and Williams missed two shots in the last 20 seconds.
Nebraska capitalized on a run of eight Wisconsin turnovers over eight minutes in the second half to tie it at 52. The Badgers were ahead 63-56 after Klesmit scored 11 points over two minutes.
But Nebraska came back again, got the game to overtime and posted one of its biggest comebacks in program history.
Wisconsin: The Badgers had as nearly as many turnovers (10) as field goals (11) after half.
Nebraska: The Huskers posted their second win over a top-10 opponent in the same season for the first time since 2013-14.
Wisconsin’s Hepburn, playing 50 miles from his hometown of Omaha, was met with boos each time he touched the ball. Hepburn had strongly considered Nebraska, but picked the Badgers after the Huskers fired Tim Miles in 2019.
Hepburn played a big role in the first half. In a span of 29 seconds, Hepburn made a fallaway jumper and had two layups off steals, with a free throw tacked onto the second. Another layup pushed the Badgers’ advantage to 17 late in the half.
Wisconsin: Hosts No. 2 Purdue on Sunday.
Nebraska: Visits No. 14 Illinois on Sunday.