LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Cornhuskers remained at the top of the Big Ten standings Thursday night.
But it certainly wasn’t easy.
It took two overtimes before Nebraska finally found a way to overcome Iowa and senior Peter Jok, and escape with a 93-90 victory over the Hawkeyes in an intense battle at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Glynn Watson tossed in a career-high 34 points and senior Tai Webster added 23 points, six rebounds and seven assists as Nebraska survived a game with 14 ties and 12 lead changes. It is off to a 3-0 start in conference play for the first time since the 1975-76 season.
The Cornhuskers (9-6, 3-0) had the lead for most of the second overtime but Jok, who finished with 34 points, gave the Hawkeyes a 90-89 lead with a 3-point field goal with a minute, 27 seconds to go.
Freshman Jeriah Horne tied the score with a free throw with 1:13 to go and after a Webster steal, Jok fouled out going for a rebound with 54.6 seconds remaining. Webster made one foul shot to give Nebraska a 91-90 lead but he missed the second.
It was a recurring problem for Nebraska, which made just 19 of 35 free throws and had some crucial misses at crucial times.
Isaiah Moss, who scored 17 points for the Hawkeyes, tried to take the ball to the basket at the other end but lost it out of bounds and Horne added two free throws with 17.4 seconds left to make it 93-90.
Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon missed a 10-foot jumper and Nebraska’s Evan Taylor was fouled with 8.1 seconds left.
Taylor, who missed two free throws that could have won the game with 1.3 seconds left in regulation, missed twice again, giving the Hawkeyes one last chance. However, Brady Ellingson missed a fallaway 3-point attempt at the horn.
“It was a great win because Iowa’s a heckuva team,’’ Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a postgame interview on the Big Ten Network. “I’m just glad we came out on top.’’
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery loved the way his team rebounded in the game but felt his team’s ongoing defensive issues came back to haunt the Hawkeyes again.
“Our defense again was not very good,’’ he said. “It was good at times down the stretch in regulation, but it was not good in overtime.’’
Iowa (9-7, 1-2 Big Ten) trailed by as much as nine points in the second half before Jok, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, got rolling. He had only four points in the first half but scored 25 in the second half and five more in overtime.
He had 16 straight points for the Hawkeyes at one point in the second half and 18 of their last 20, the last of those giving Iowa a 74-72 lead with about a minute-and-a-half to go.
But Watson, who also eventually fouled out, made two free throws with 13.9 seconds left.
When Jok lost the ball going up for a possible game-winning shot at the other end, it looked as though Taylor would have a breakaway layup to win the game but Nicholas Baer raced from behind to foul him in the final seconds.
“What an incredible play that was,’’ McCaffery said of Baer, who grabbed 11 rebounds and matched a career high with six blocked shots. “Whatever he does doesn’t surprise you anymore.’’
Taylor missed both free throws and the game went to overtime.
The Hawkeyes had an 83-79 lead and the ball with a minute left in the first overtime, but couldn’t hold it. They had two missed shots and a turnover in that final minute and Webster knocked down four free throws to tie it. Jordan Bohannon missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the period.
“I felt like we stayed together and made big plays,’’ said Watson, who made seven of eight shots from 3-point range. “We missed free throws but we stuck together.’’
Nebraska is the team with a reputation for offensive rebounding, but Miles pointed to Iowa’s 51-42 advantage on the boards as a big factor in keeping the game close.
“I think you have to credit Iowa,’’ he said. “Their young guys beat us at our game for a long time. They got more offensive rebounds, got more second chance points.’’