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Nebraska's Keisei Tominaga Shines in the Final Home Game of College Career

Cornhuskers guard Keisei Tominaga scored a game-high 18 points, including 10 straight in the second half, in an emotional win over Big Ten foe Rutgers.

It was a fitting performance by fan favorite Keisei Tominaga on Senior Night. After all, he's a dynamic player who has energized the University of Nebraska men's basketball program since the day he arrived on campus.

In the final home game of his college career, the Nagoya native scored a game-high 18 points to help lead the Cornhuskers to a 67-56 victory over Big Ten Conference foe Rutgers University on Sunday, March 3.

Tominaga scored 10 straight points in the second half before a frenzied crowd of 15,854 at Pinnacle Bank Arena as the Cornhuskers took a 64-51 lead with 5:19 remaining.

Rutgers had pulled to within 54-48 before Tominaga's big scoring run, which began with a highlight-reel layup on which he was fouled. He nailed the subsequent free throw, then canned a 3-pointer, and was also fouled in the process. Tominaga made that free throw, too. He was 5-for-6 at the line.

Describing his play in the second half, Tominaga emphasized effort in his comments to reporters after the game.

"I just kept cutting and moving and so that was big at that moment of the game with the big 3," Tominaga said.

He then said, "I think I just need to keep moving and growing to make my teammates better. Let the game come to me and live in the moment."

And what were his thoughts on his final home game as a Cornhusker?

"It meant a lot to me, I've been here for three years," Tominaga said. "The crowd was amazing and for a moment like that to happen it meant a lot to me."

Keisei Tominaga
From left, Nebraska Cornhuskers guard Jarron "Boogie" Coleman, guard CJ Wilcher, forward Josiah Allick and guard Keisei Tominaga stand with coach Fred Hoiberg before the game on Senior Night. (NEBRASKA ATHLETICS)

Nebraska Remains Perfect at Home in Big Ten Games

The Cornhuskers (21-9 overall, 11-8 in the Big Ten) improved to 18-1 at home in the 2023-24 season, and it includes a 10-0 record in conference home games in Lincoln, Nebraska.

In addition to Tominaga, Nebraska's Juwan Gary (15 points) and Josiah Allick (10) also scored in double figures.

Cornhuskers head coach Fred Hoiberg was delighted that his team earned a victory in the final home game for its seniors.

"Yeah, it was the perfect night for our seniors to go out the way they did, and you know, I told them after the game, 'I'll never forget my Senior Night, it burns me up inside.' I was 3-for-16 against Oklahoma and it was a miserable night and I still think about it. [Then] I went home and I kicked the lamp over and broke it and it still lives with me,' " recalled Hoiberg, who played at Iowa State (1991-95) before embarking on an NBA career.

"So to send these guys out like that was a perfect ending. You know it's just sad, emotional, it's Keisei Tominaga's last game in Pinnacle Bank Arena, for everything that he's been through in the last three years, and what he's meant to our program. And what Josiah has given us in a year is just absolutely remarkable."

Keisei Tominaga
Keisei Tominaga is averaging 13.9 points per game this season through March 3. (NEBRASKA ATHLETICS)

Tominaga Poses Challenges for Opposing Teams

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell acknowledged that Tominaga was one of the focal points of his team's defense. But he also pointed out that the Scarlet Knights' defensive strategy couldn't focus on a single player.

"Yeah, I mean, their seniors are really good," Pikiell told a news conference. He (Tominaga) made some shots with the shot clock going down. He made 2s today. We're always trying to limit his 3s and his opportunities, but he's become a really good basketball player."

The Rutgers bench boss added, "In his first year here, it was a 3 or nothing. And now he's able to do a lot of different things, and seeing him play with emotion and that kind of thing. So he's a hard guy [to defend], but they've got a lot of pieces. … So when you try to take away something, then other guys are able to do different things."

Tominaga has led the Cornhuskers in scoring in 10 games this season.

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A Hall of Famer's Visit

NBA great Kevin McHale attended Sunday's game in Lincoln. Hoiberg considers him a mentor. McHale made a lasting impression on Hoiberg during his playing career and his post-game comments to the triumphant Cornhusker were a big deal, according to Hoiberg.

What did McHale tell the players?

"All he talked about was just the effort and how much he loved watching us out there competing," Hoiberg said, summing up the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer's remarks.

Keisei Tominaga
Keisei Tominaga is fired up during the game against Rutgers. (NEBRASKA ATHLETICS)

A Quick Look at Tominaga's Career

Tominaga, who enrolled at Nebraska in 2021 after a pair of seasons at two-year school Ranger College in Texas, has increased his scoring output in each of his three seasons in a Cornhusker uniform, from 5.7 points in 2021-22, to 13.1 in 2022-23 to 13.9 this season.

In addition, Tominaga suited up for Japan's 3x3 men's basketball team at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and played for Akatsuki Japan, the national team, at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Okinawa City.

Up next: Nebraska plays its final Big Ten regular-season game at the University of Michigan on Sunday, March 10.

The 2024 Big Ten Conference Men's Basketball Tournament is set for March 13-17 at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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