Nebraska's Walter Pitchford, a Michigan native, started Thursday night's 71-70 loss to Michigan with a contested triple from the corner, and it appeared the Cornhuskers were ready for a battle. Glenn Robinson III scored five of the Wolverines' eight points, though, including three on his first triple attempt, and U-M kept pace before gutting out a key road win.
Robinson's pull-up jumper made it 10-8 at 15:15. The Wolverines started 6-of-8 from the floor but could only manage a 15-12 lead at the 12-minute mark. Sophomore Nik Stauskas continued to play well with the ball, finishing a reverse lay-up and finding big man Jordan Morgan on a wrap-around dish. Morgan made it 17-12 with a strong offensive rebound and putback off a Zak Irvin miss, and he showed his confidence with a half hook in the post that made it 19-14 at the 10:40 mark.
Robinson continued to play with swagger, hitting another jumper of the dribble to help U-M remain a step ahead.
Irvin missed two long triples, while Nebraska's Ray Gallegos hit two to keep it close. It was 21-20 at 8:10 on Gallegos' second, and he hit his third following a Spike Albrecht triple to keep it a one-point game. Pitchford, though, tripled from the top to make it 26-24 Cornhuskers, at the seven-minute mark. Nebraska was five-for-eight from three-point range during the 9-3 run.
Stauskas buried a contested three to give the Wolverines the lead back at 4:44.
The teams went back and forth down the stretch. A Caris LeVert drive and finish and one Morgan free throw - he had seven points in the half - made it 30-28 before Nebraska tied it with five seconds to go, but freshman Derrick Walton Jr. stunned the crowd with a halfcourt triple as time expired to give the Wolverines a 33-30 lead.
The Wolverines shot 57 percent in the first half. Robinson led the scorers with nine, Morgan added seven with three rebounds, Stauskas and Walton notched five each and LeVert had four. U-M scored 12 points on turnovers to none for Nebraska.
Morgan continued his strong play, buying Michigan another possession with an offensive rebound and finishing a pick and roll from Stauskas to match the biggest lead, 35-30, right from the get-go. Walton Jr.'s triple at 17:30 made it 40-34, and U-M seemed poised to take control. LeVert scored four during the Wolverines' run, including a great backdoor read cut and finish.
Stauskas, though, struggled with a turnover and gave up an offensive rebound and putback, then got beat off the dribble to help keep Nebraska close. It was 44-43 at 15:18, and the Huskers scored four of the next five to take a three-point lead at 13:37. Michigan countered with an alley-oop from Stauskas to Robinson III on a set play out of the timeout to silence the crowd.
Nebraska shot 67 percent to Michigan's 58 at the 11:35 to take a 51-48 lead. U-M had only gotten three points from its bench at that point.
Stauskas and LeVert missed two point blank looks and Irvin continued to struggle, missing badly on a wide-open triple. Still, the Wolverines were able to regain the lead on two dishes from Stauskas to Morgan off the dribble, making it 52-51 at the 9:14 mark. Robinson added to the lead with a baseline drive and finish at 8:30 before a three-point play by Deverell Biggs tied it on the other end.
Stauskas then took over. He hit a jumper and followed it with a long triple off a steal from Robinson to give the Wolverines a five-point lead. The Wolverines didn't get to the free throw line in the second half until the 5:36 mark, when Stauskas missed two to keep it a three-point game. U-M was just 3-for-8 at that point from the line. Nebraska cut it to one before Robinson III drove and finished - Gallegos, though, tied it at 63 with a triple at 4:32.
That set up a wild finish. It started with a pick and roll from LeVert to Morgan, his 14th and 15th points. Nebraska matched it with two free throws at 3:10. Stauskas knifed through the defense and finished off balance, but Terran Petteway countered with a 10-footer off the glass at 2:20.
A Robinson steal and dunk made it 69-67 at 1:35 - Petteway tied it again following his own miss, and Walton's bad turnover gave Nebraska the ball back. Petteway's free throw gave the 'Huskers the lead with 33 seconds remaining.
Walton, though, came up huge with a drive and finish, fouled baseline, but couldn't finish the three-point play. U-M still led 71-70 lead at 21.8. Nebraska called timeout with 9.3 second remaining to set up one last play, but Petteway missed and Leslee Smith sent an uncontested tip-in wide, and the Wolverines escaped with the win.
Poor free throw shooting (3-for-9) and a nearly flawless performance by the Cornhuskers from the stripe - they missed only one of 12 - almost doomed U-M.
Robinson finished with 19 to lead U-M, Morgan added 15 and four rebounds, Stauskas had 12 and four assists, LeVert notched 10 and five dimes and Walton 10 and four helpers.
The Wolverines improved to 3-0 in conference.