Nebraska pulls off Big 12 stunner
Count Texas among those very impressed by Nebraska’s upset of the No. 3 Longhorns.
Brandon Richardson hit a pair of free throws with 7.2 seconds left to seal the Cornhuskers’ 70-67 win on Saturday. Nebraska hadn’t beaten a team ranked in the top three since knocking off No. 3 Missouri 98-91 in the 1994 Big Eight Conference tournament.
After Texas’ 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer, Nebraska students stormed the court and hoisted players on their shoulders.
”Man, what a great game,” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. ”How can you not be excited? It’s a great day for us.”
The Cornhuskers’ second win over a Top 25 opponent this season broke Texas’ school record Big 12 winning streak at 11 games. Nebraska downed then-No. 13 Texas A&M 57-48 on Jan. 29.
Texas coach Rick Barnes said this one wasn’t a fluke.
”There’s no question Nebraska deserves all the credit because they were a terrific team today,” he said. ”Doc Sadler is one of the great guys in this business, and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy. If this helps them to the NCAA tournament, then it would be great for him. The fans were great, and they definitely deserved to win the game.”
Richardson led Nebraska with 15 points, 10 in the second half. Toney McCray added 14.
Jordan Hamilton and Brown each had 18 to top Texas. Cory Joseph had 13.
Nebraska (18-8, 6-6 Big 12), which trailed by seven points at halftime, took a 64-53 lead on Lance Jeter’s driving layup with 2:35 left. But the Cornhuskers made just six of 11 free throws in the last two minutes to help Texas get back in it.
”We made it much tougher than we could have,” Sadler said. ”They made some plays. You’re not going to just go beat teams like that.
”We just needed to make some free throws.”
Texas (23-4, 11-1) went on a 12-1 run, making seven of nine free throws and adding a pair of baskets. Alexis Wangmere’s free throws tied it 65-65 with 1:07 remaining.
Richardson sank a pair of foul shots with 43.5 seconds remaining to put Nebraska back in front, and Drake Beranek made one of two with 24.7 seconds left.
Texas’ J’Covan Brown made two of three free throws with 12.6 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one, but his 3-point attempt at the buzzer fell short.
Hamilton said he was confident Texas could come back, even though the Longhorns were trailing by double figures with less than two minutes to go.
”There was never a doubt in my mind,” he said. ”I think (Nebraska) shot a great percentage in the second half. They played really hard. The crowd got into it. They got loud. We missed some shots, I missed some easy shots, and some wide open looks, even in the first half. That was the outcome.”
The Cornhuskers were every bit as confident, even when they were down at halftime.
”It was as positive as we’ve ever been in the locker room,” McCray said. ”Nobody was rattled, nobody was discouraged or nothing like that. It was almost like we was up. I don’t want to sound stupid, but I didn’t even know the score. We knew it was going to be a 40-minute game.”
Nebraska hit seven of its first eight shots in the second half and took a 40-38 lead on Andre Almeida’s tip-in with 16:29 remaining. It was the first time Texas had trailed in seven games.
The Huskers got back-to-back layups from Richardson, and Almeida’s left-handed hook made it 50-42 with 11:39 left. Nebraska’s biggest lead was 11, the last time after Jeter’s layup.
The burst came after Sadler changed Nebraska’s offense and put centers Almeida and Jorge Brian Diaz on the blocks to get them one-on-one coverage and open up driving lanes.
”They were not ready for me and Brian on the post,” Almeida said. ”I don’t know when was the last time we’ve run that offense. We tried it one time, and it worked. The second time it worked. We just kept going with it.”
Nebraska hit 56 percent of its shots in the second half against Texas, which had held Big 12 opponents to 36.4 percent shooting before Saturday.
The Longhorns, who entered having made 49 percent of their shots in conference play, sank only 36 percent against Nebraska, which packed the lane and kept Texas from running in transition.
Nebraska dominated the paint, outscoring Texas 38-14. The Cornhuskers also held a 39-34 edge in rebounds.
”They totally dominated the second half of the game. They got whatever they wanted inside,” Barnes said. ”When you get beat 38-14 in the lane, you will probably lose some games there. We didn’t have a great day shooting the ball.
”We just weren’t very good, and they spread the court out and took advantage of that.”