Lincoln - Nebraska built a 14-point lead and held on down the stretch, picking up a 50-48 win over Valparaiso in the opening game of the Joe Cipriano Nebraska Classic at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
The Huskers, who improved to 2-0, won the game on the defensive end of the floor, holding Valparasio to just 34 percent shooting and 2-of-15 from 3-point range. The preseason favorite to win the Horizon League, the Crusaders came into Thursday's game averaging 77 points per game and shooting 54 percent from long range.
While Valparaiso struggled from long range, junior Ray Gallegos enjoyed a strong night from beyond the arc for Nebraska, hitting a career-high four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. Gallegos, who had a career-high 16 in NU's opener against Southern, was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.
Senior Brandon Ubel led the Huskers in scoring with 17 points and five rebounds, including a pair of free throws with14 seconds left to provide the Huskers with breathing room.
Nebraska trailed by as many as five points early on before Gallegos and Ubel combined for nine straight points to put the Huskers up 25-19 on a Gallegos 3-pointer. Nebraska, which shot 48 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, eventually built a seven-point lead after a David Rivers' putback and took a 28-22 lead into the locker room.
Valparaiso came out of the gate quickly in the second half, quickly cutting Nebraska's advantage to 30-26 before Gallegos keyed a 10-0 spurt a pair of 3-pointers, and Nebraska built a 40-26 lead after Benny Parker's layup with 14:58 remaining.
The Crusaders kept chipping away at the Huskers' lead, pulling to within 44-37 after a Kevin Van Wijk layup, but baskets by Rivers and Ubel got the lead back to 11, at 48-37, with 7:21 remaining.
The Huskers would then go cold from the field, not hitting a field goal down the stretch, as Van Wijk, who finished with a game-high 20 points, and Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff brought the visitors back. Two free throws by Broekhoff made it a 48-46 game before Ubel was fouled. The senior calmly sank both shots and to give NU a four-point lead. Van Wijk's two free throws with three seconds left made it a two-point game, but NU found Andre Almeida on the inbounds, and he was fouled with 1.5 seconds left. Almeida missed the free throw and Valparaiso's desperation attempt fell short to give Nebraska the win.
Nebraska will continue play in the Joe Cipriano Nebraska Classic on Sunday, Nov. 18 as the Big Red welcomes Nebraska-Omaha to the Devaney Center. The game is set for a 2 p.m. tip and will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Digital Network and on the Husker Sports Network. Tickets for Sunday's matchup can be purchased by visiting Huskers.com, calling 800-8-BIGRED or at the Devaney Center 90 minutes before tipoff.