Lincoln - Junior college transfer Andre Almeida scored 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his Husker debut, as the Nebraska men's basketball team won its 10th consecutive season opener with a 76-68 victory over South Dakota on Friday night at the Devaney Center.
Almeida's impressive performance came on 9-of-12 shooting in just 19 minutes, as he was one of three Huskers in double figures in the win. Sophomore forwards Brandon Ubel and Christian Standhardinger added 10 points apiece, while Jorge Brian Diaz chipped in eight points, as NU's four post players combined for 48 of the Huskers' 76 points against the Coyotes.
Almeida, a 6-11 center from Sao Paulo, Brazil, helped bring the Huskers out of a slow start and build a 16-point lead in the second half.
After taking a 36-31 halftime lead, senior Lance Jeter scored six points in the first three and a half minutes of the second half to give NU its first double digit lead of the game at 45-35. Almeida entered the game two minutes later and scored off a baseline spin move on his first touch to put NU ahead 51-36, capping a 15-5 Husker spurt. Almeida's next attempt was a one-handed slam dunk off a pass from junior guard Toney McCray, while the center, who made eight of his first nine shots from the floor, would go on to score four more points as NU held off South Dakota's comeback attempt in the final 12 minutes.
Almeida scored 12 points in 11 first-half minutes on 6-of-7 shooting to help Nebraska overcome a sluggish start. Another Husker making an impact in his Division I debut was senior guard Drake Beranak. Trailing 7-4 early, the transfer from Nebraska-Kearney nailed a three-pointer from the left wing to make it 7-7 with 13:10 remaining in the half. Beranek then delivered a nice pass down low to Almeida to give the Huskers a lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the game. In only five first half minutes, Beranek had three points, two rebounds and two assists.
The Coyotes would not let NU build a big advantage in the first half, as guard Charlie Westbrook totaled 13 points in the first frame and finished with a game-high 24 points. Westbrook and Almeida traded buckets until NU gained its five-point halftime lead after sophomore guard Eshaunte Jones and McCray hit back-to-back three-pointers with under two minutes remaining. Nebraska, which made only two of its first 10 field goal attempts, ended the first half with an effective 52 percent shooting percentage (15-of-29), while South Dakota shot 36 percent (11-of-31). The Huskers went on to shoot 44 percent (27-of-62) for the game.
Nebraska's continues the non-conference portion of its schedule with a contest Monday night against 2010 SWAC champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Tip-off from the Devaney Center is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be carried on the IMG Husker Sports Network.