Huskers Fall to Gophers, 69-61
Lincoln - Bo Spencer's 18 led three Huskers in double figures, but a second half scoring drought doomed Nebraska in a 69-61 loss to Minnesota Sunday afternoon.
The Huskers and Gophers were tied at 39 with 12:27 left after Spencer hit a pair of free throws, but then went scoreless for nearly six minutes, as Minnesota (17-7, 5-6 Big Ten) used a 9-0 run to take the lead for good.
Maverick Ahanmisi's 3-point play started the run, as the Gophers eventually extended their lead to 48-39 after Andre Hollins' 3-pointer off an offensive rebound.
The Huskers, who missed 14 of their first 16 shots from the field in the second half, were still in striking distance after the slow offensive start, as a Toney McCray 3-pointer cut the lead to 48-42 with 6:39 left. NU was within 52-46 after a Spencer basket, but a Ralph Sampson III jumper and a basket by Ahanmisi pushed the lead back to 56-46 with 4:21 left.
Nebraska (11-11 overall, 3-8 Big Ten) trailed 60-50 before a McCray free throw and an offensive putback after his second free throw missed put the Huskers within 60-53, but two baskets by Chip Armelin pushed the lead back to 11 and ended the Huskers' comeback bid.
Armelin came off the bench to score a team-high 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, as Minnesota shot 54 percent, including 67 percent after halftime. In all, 40 of the Gophers' 69 points came from the bench in Sunday's win.
In addition to Spencer's game-high 18 points, Toney McCray finished with 15 points, six rebounds and a career-high three blocked shots, while Brandon Richardson added 10 points and three steals in a losing effort.
Nebraska, which shot 59 percent in the first half, took a 33-32 lead into the half after a wild last 20 seconds of action. After an alley-oop dunk by Walker tied the score at 30, the Gophers regained the lead Oto Osenieks' dunk, but Nebraska got the ball up court quickly, and Walker was able to beat the halftime buzzer for a long 3-pointer to give NU a one-point lead.
Walker gave the Huskers a 35-32 lead with a layup on NU's first possession of the second half, finished with seven of his nine points in the 50-second span.
Early on, the teams traded the lead back and forth before the Huskers went on an 8-0 run, as McCray scored five straight points before a Dylan Talley 3-pointer extended Nebraska's lead to 19-11 with 9:53 left in the half. The Gophers who missed four of the first five 3-pointers, heated up from long range, as 3-pointers by Austin Hollins, Julian Welch and Chip Arnelin capped a 9-0 spurt to put Minnesota up 20-19.
The Gophers eventually their largest lead of the half at 30-26, but two Brandon Ubel free throws and the Walker dunk quickly knotted the score.
The Huskers return to action on Wednesday night, as they take on Michigan at 7:30 p.m. at the Devaney Center. All fans that buy tickets for Wednesday's game with the Wolverines can also use those tickets for GA seating at the women's game against Michigan on Thursday night. To purchase tickets, call 800-8-BIGRED or visit Huskers.com.
*-Nebraska falls to 11-11 on the season and dropped its second straight game. The Huskers are 8-6 at home this season.
*-Brandon Richardson finished with a game-high three steals, the seventh time this season he has had at least three steals in a game. Richardson now has 135 career steals and is two shy of moving into a tie for eighth place on Nebraska's career list. Richardson also finished with 10 points, his highest scoring home effort in Big Ten play this season.
*-Toney McCray's three blocked shots tied his career high originally set against Creighton on Nov. 29, 2008. McCray also finished with 15 points on the day and averaged 15.5 ppg in two games this season
*-Bo Spencer led Nebraska with 18 points and added five assists, topping the Huskers in scoring for the 16th time this season.
*- The 40 points by Minnesota's bench was second-highest total by a Husker opponent this season (42 at Ohio State on Jan. 3)
*-Minnesota improves to 14-7 all-time in Lincoln against the Huskers
*-Minnesota shot 54 percent against Nebraska, the highest by a Husker opponent this season.
*-The 13 minutes by Mike Fox was a career high, as his previous high was 12 at Ohio State on Jan. 3
Nebraska Coach Doc Sadler
"First of all I was very disappointed in our toughness to grind things out today on offense and defense. I didn't think we had the mindset you have to have in league play to know that it's going to be a tough ballgame. Things are not going to be easy for you. And when things get tough, that's when you have to start grinding. You've got to give Minnesota credit. At halftime, they made an adjustment of switching everything one through five when they realized we didn't have a low post presence like you've got to have. The fact of the matter is you have to get the ball inside. Whether you score from down there or just touch it down there is the biggest thing. If you don't make tough plays, you're not going to go to the free throw line. Overall, I'm very disappointed. As I told the team with five minutes, the game is still going to be won at this point on. We've just got to grind it from here on out. But we didn't."
On Jorge Brian Diaz' status
"He's hurting. I would say that it's going to be a longshot to see him play the rest of the year. His feet are just killing him. He can't play; he can't walk. You can't compete at this level with your feet killing you. They haven't gotten any better; they've gotten worse."
On the struggles at home
"We have struggled. No question about that. I don't think we've had our whole team, though most of the time, but that can't be an excuse. We didn't grind it today. You don't have any chance without grinding. We have not played well at home, we have not."
On if he was surprised with how well Minnesota played inside
"Not really, because of the offense they run. They run flex and they are going to get at that elbow and get those guys down there. And we were guarding them with guards. I think they showed much more patience in the second half than the first half."
Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith
"Good afternoon. It was a solid performance for us. I know that we were coming off of a tough loss at Iowa and knowing that Nebraska had beaten Iowa there, we knew that we were in for a tough game. Coach (Doc) Sadler had his team well prepared, and we just played well and shot the ball well in the second half. We did a good job rebounding and (Chip) Armelin gave us a lot of energy off the bench. The key in the second half was trying to contain them defensively and I thought we did an adequate job there.
On having 40 points off of the bench:
"Yeah, I've said it before. Guys like Elliot (Eliason) have been giving us solid play and certainly Andre Hollins has been giving us solid play. It is a team effort all of the way around. I don't look at how guys that come off the bench. Somebody has to start, it just so happened that the five guys that started the game started. We got a little superstitious and keep that starting line up together."
On if Minnesota did anything different in the second half:
"We stopped trailing and went ball-side of screens. That is something we did a better job of. We were getting bumped on some screens and Nebraska was doing a good job of scraping over the top and getting the backdoor. We did a better job of rejecting the screen. You look at Bo (Spencer) and he was able to fake one way and go baseline against us. They did it about three times. They got a lot of easy buckets on us in the first half and shot 59 percent. We made an effort to keep them away from the basket and stop the backdoor cuts."
On if Coach Smith was surprised on how easy it was to get to the rim in the second half:
"Well, Chip is the best we have at getting to the rim. When he is out in the open court like that and in transition, that is when he is most dangerous because he has excellent speed and body control. They forced a couple of turnovers and we rebounded the ball and got out in transition, and that is why we were able to do that. I didn't think that they did poorly. We made a conscious effort to run more and run harder. Nobody played more than twelve minutes in the first half and nobody was in foul trouble so we decided to push more in the open court. We wanted to go back to that up-tempo running style."