James Palmer Jr. matched a career high with 34 points, including 27 in the second half, and 13th-seeded Nebraska finished strong for a 68-61 win over 12th-seeded Rutgers in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament on Wednesday evening in Chicago.
Glynn Watson Jr. had 11 points and Isaiah Roby notched 10 for Nebraska (17-15), which won its second consecutive game. The Cornhuskers advanced to face fifth-seeded Maryland on Thursday afternoon.
Eugene Omoruyi scored 16 points to lead the Scarlet Knights before he fouled out in the game’s final minute. Rutgers (14-17) committed a season-high 22 turnovers and dropped its third straight game.
The Cornhuskers enjoyed a 15-0 run to grab a 61-51 lead with 1:30 to play. Palmer Jr. drilled a 3-pointer and Roby made a running layup on back-to-back possessions during the rally against Rutgers, which went through a scoring drought of 5:43.
The run also included a breakaway slam dunk by Palmer Jr., who drew a flagrant foul as Omoruyi chased him down from behind and fouled him as he was defenseless in the air.
Palmer Jr. scored 16 of Nebraska’s first 18 points in the second half. The outburst included a stretch of 11 straight points that included four free throws, a 3-pointer and two baskets from inside the arc.
Rutgers opened the second half on a 9-1 run to go on top 34-27 with 16:51 to go. Myles Johnson punctuated the run with a two-handed slam dunk on an alley-oop feed from Omoruyi.
Nebraska led 26-25 at the half. Watson Jr. and Palmer Jr. had seven points apiece to lead the Cornhuskers.
Omoruyi had 12 points to account for nearly half of Rutgers’ scoring at the break.
The Scarlet Knights built an eight-point lead when Omoruyi made a layup with 14:02 to go in the first half. But Nebraska closed the session on a 22-13 run to pull in front 26-25.
Rutgers played its first game since dismissing forward Issa Thiam from the team on Monday following his arrest on domestic violence charges. The junior from Senegal averaged 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this season.
—Field Level Media