Photo by Allyssa Hynes/Nebraska Communications

Nebraska's Week Of Perfection

By Brian Rosenthal

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more successful week for any collegiate athletic program than the one Nebraska produced last week, beginning Jan. 15 and concluding Sunday.

The Huskers literally won everything, in every sport, with seven athletic programs, men’s and women’s included, contributing to a week of perfection.

Let’s start with the basketball teams, which combined for a 4-0 record with three victories over ranked teams last week. Two of those came from second-year coach Amy Williams’ upstart women, who upset No. 20 Iowa at home, 74-65, before defeating No. 25 Rutgers on the road Sunday, 52-42.

That’s an incredible seven straight road victories, a feat Nebraska hasn’t accomplished since the 2009-10 team entered the post season undefeated, with a 12-0 record in true road games, en route to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

These Huskers (14-6, 5-2 Big Ten Conference) aren’t on that path, but they are on course to return to the postseason after winning only seven games last season. The road victories sure look good on an NCAA Tournament resume, especially at Rutgers, given the Scarlet Knights entered the game with a No. 11 RPI and 12-0 record at home.

Meanwhile, coach Tim Miles’ men’s team collected a much-needed quality victory by knocking off No. 23 Michigan 72-52 before an energized crowd of 14,958 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Nebraska (14-7, 5-3) held the Wolverines to a season-low point total in its largest margin of victory over a ranked team since 2004. Michigan was also the only Big Ten team Nebraska had yet to defeat since joining the league in 2010-11.

That victory came on the heels of a buzzer-beating victory over Illinois on Monday night. James Palmer Jr. hit a 3-pointer with less than a second left for a 66-64 victory. That helped Palmer earn co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

If memory serves me correctly, the Huskers hadn’t won a game at the buzzer on a 3-pointer since Charles Richardson caught a deflected ball from opponent Charles Burgess, took a dribble and swished a 3-poitner to defeat Texas Tech 61-51 in Lubbock, Texas, in 2007.

 

Record crowd watches gymnastics teams win

When we say “There Is No Place Like Nebraska,” we mean things like walking into the Devaney Sports Center on Saturday night and seeing a near-capacity crowd for a gymnastics double-dual.

Floor bleachers were pulled up to make room for all men’s and women’s events, but fans nearly filled the B and C sections. The attendance of 4,443 was the biggest ever for a regular season home women’s meet, and the largest the men have seen since the glory days of the 1980s and 90s.

That, coincidentally, is when the men would routinely compete for national titles. The Huskers haven’t won one since 1994 but certainly have a team capable of ending that drought. Nebraska produced a national-best score of 411.75 in defeating No.3 Ohio State to maintain its No. 1 ranking.

Jake Bonnay, Anton Stephenson (pictured above) and Daniel Leal won event titles. Bonnay claimed the floor title, scoring a 14.45; Stephenson claimed the vault title, scoring a 15.20; and Leal claimed the parallel bars title, scoring a 14.45.

The Huskers dominated on vault, tying a school record of 72.50.

The women, in their second meet of the season, scored a 196.3 to defeat Rutgers. Sienna Crouse set a career-high on floor and captured two event titles in floor and vault; that earned her Big Ten Event Specialist of the Week honors. Megan Schweihofer and Abbie Epperson each claimed a share of the all-around title, and Taylor Houchin set a career-high to win the uneven bars. 

“Obviously, it was a fun night, and the crowd made a huge difference,” Nebraska women’s coach Dan Kendig said. “I’d be lying if I said that crowd is what I expected.”

Kendig said several factors boosted attendance, including good weather and the men’s No. 1 ranking. Also, the women’s program had many alumni, boosters, friends and family returning to see renditions of the women’s new practice facility, to be built north adjacent to the Devaney Sports Center.

The women host Michigan and Minnesota each of the next two Saturdays.

“If we come out of these two weekends, we’ll be in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten Championship,” Kendig said. “It’s huge weekends, and the crowd will make a difference.”

 

Wrestling knocks off Northwestern, Rutgers

Nebraska won each of the last four bouts by decision Sunday to complete a weekend sweep, and the No. 18 Huskers rallied to defeat No. 16 Rutgers 19-13 for their fourth straight dual victory.

The Huskers trailed 13-7 with four bouts to go, but consecutive decisions by Jason Renteria (133), Chad Red Jr. (141), Colton McCrystal (149, pictured above) and Tyler Berger (157) sealed the win for Nebraska.

The Huskers improved to 6-3 on the season and 4-1 in Big Ten action, as they followed up a road win Friday night at Northwestern.

Against the Wildcats, seventh-ranked Taylor Venz delivered a win in the final match of the night with the Huskers down three team points, and Nebraska won by criteria over No. 20 Northwestern at Patten Gym.

 

Men's and women's track sweep Mark Colligan Memorial

The Nebraska men scored 165 points to win their sixth straight Mark Colligan team title Saturday. The Huskers improved their nation-leading dual-meet win streak to 21 meets, dating to 2001.

The Husker women won their fifth title in the last six years with 169 total points. Combined, the Husker men and women collected 15 event titles

Landon Bartel produced a career-best performance in the high jump for the second straight week to begin the 2018 season. Bartel cleared a new personal best 7-3 3/4 (2.23m) – one week after clearing 7-3 for the first time – and won the event title to move to No. 1 in the Big Ten, No. 4 in the nation.

Angela Mercurio (pictured above) won the triple jump with a mark of 42-5 1/2 (12.94m), a new indoor personal best that ranks first in the Big Ten and No. 10 nationally. On the track, Jasmine Barge won the 60-meter hurdles with a season-best time of 8.34, the second-fastest time in the Big Ten this season.

Women’s rifle defeats Navy, North Carolina State

The No. 8 Nebraska rifle team fired its highest aggregate score of the season in a 4,682-4,655 victory over Navy on Friday, and then finished the weekend with a 4,670-4,655 victory over No. 11 North Carolina State.

Hannah Virga’s score of 586 and Samantha Peterson’s mark of 582 helped a team score of 2,320 in smallbore against Navy.

Nebraska widened the gap in air rifle, producing a season-high score of 2,382. Dacotah Faught led the Huskers with her second-highest score of the season (595). Samantha Peterson was close behind with 591, tying her season high with the effort.

Against NC State, Emily Cheramie and Samantha Peterson led the Huskers to a season-high team smallbore score of 2,321. Cheramie and Peterson both fired 583. Nina Radulovic (578), Hannah Virga (577) and Dacotah Faught (572) added solid scores to round out the Huskers.

 

Women’s swim and dive win on Senior Day

The Nebraska swim and dive team defeated Illinois 183-112 on Senior Day on Saturday.

The Huskers started the meet with a first place finish in the 200-yard medley relay with Autumn Haebig, Gwen Worlton, Izzie Murray and Lindsay Helferich (1:44.46). Haebig, a freshman, captured first place in the 200-yard freestyle (1:50.97)

The Huskers swept the top three spots in the 100-yard breaststroke with senior captain Jordan Ehly (pictured above) in first (1:03.95), Tori Beeler in second (1:04.30) and Gwen Worlton rounding out the top three (1:04.40). 

Men's tennis sweeps Creighton

The Huskers swept in-state rival Creighton 7-0 to improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2009-10, leaving coach Kerry McDermott satisfied with the early results.

“As a whole, the team unity is really good, which is one thing I think we lacked last year,” McDermott said. "The work ethic so far this year has been great. In practice, we as coaches, are just coaching. We don't have to worry about discipline on and off the court. The guys know what they have to do and with that being said, it makes us easier to be a better team, and for us to be better coaches.”

In doubles play, the freshmen duo of Isaac Nortey and William Grattan-Smith, competing at No. 1 for the first time, dominated Stratton Brown and Brooks Kendall, 6-1. Junior Toby Boyer and senior Linus Erhart sealed it for the Huskers with a win over Armando Gandini and Jose Diaz 6-3 at No. 2 doubles.

In singles, Boyer defeated Kendall 6-2, 6-0; Chris Dean bested Diaz 6-2, 6-2; and Micah Klousia won against Armando Gandini 6-3, 6-4. At No. 2, Erhart defeated Brown 7-5, 6-2. The two freshmen rounded out the singles wins with Grattan-Smith defeating Mac Mease in a second-set tiebreaker, and Nortey topping Lopez, 6-4, 7-5.  

Super Bowl bound

And what better way to wrap up a winning week than having three former Huskers advance to the Super Bowl?

Running back Rex Burkhead and defensive lineman Vincent Valentine (on IR) will represent Nebraska as members of the New England Patriots, while rookie linebacker Nathan Gerry will play for the Philadelphia Eagles.

That extends Nebraska’s streak to 25 years of having at least one former Husker on a Super Bowl team.

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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