Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Kansas-Nebraska tilt part of big Huskers weekend

By Brian Rosenthal

Jim Kubacki began the game wearing street clothes, opting to sit out Nebraska’s game against No. 4 Kansas because of a knee injury.

Then teammate Gary Reimers suffered a calf injury, and with the Huskers in a surprising tussle with the Wilt Chamberlain-led Jayhawks, Kubacki slipped on his uniform and played the final minutes.

That’s the setup for one of the biggest upsets in Nebraska basketball history.

Kubacki swished the winning jump shot with 2 seconds to play in the Huskers’ 43-41 victory over Kansas on Feb. 22, 1958, at the Nebraska Coliseum.

Sixty seasons later, Kubacki and other members of 1957-58 team will be honored during the first half of Nebraska’s 7 p.m. game Saturday against, of course, Kansas.  

“I saw the jumper that splashed,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said of Kubacki’s game-winner. “I might have to suit him up, because that’s the best looking jumper I’ve seen in a Husker uniform in, like, six years.”

Kubacki, Bob Harry and Wayne Hester, as well as the families of head coach Jerry Bush and Tony Sharpe, will be honored at Pinnacle Bank Arena. That Nebraska team won only 10 games, but two came over top five teams, as the Huskers also upset No. 1 Kansas State in its next, and final, home game of the season.

What qualified the 1958 victory over Kansas as a colossal upset, other than the fact Chamberlain played for the Jayhawks? Well, consider that only two weeks earlier, Kansas defeated Nebraska 102-46 in Lawrence, Kansas.

That remains the worst loss in Nebraska history.

Nebraska's lopsided losses and thrilling upsets have been the norm of the Kansas series, which went dormant after the 2010-11 season, when Nebraska left the Big 12 Conference. Before that move, the Huskers and Kansas were two of the founding members of the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1907 and remained in the same conference – save for the 1919-20 season – until Nebraska joined the Big Ten.

The rivalry renewed last season, with No. 3 Kansas defeating Nebraska 89-72 in Allen Fieldhouse, and now the Jayhawks complete the two-year, home-and-home series by visiting Pinnacle Bank Arena for the first time.

No. 13 Kansas (7-2) has lost back-to-back games to Pac-12 schools Washington and Arizona State – one in Kansas City, the other in Allen Fieldhouse. On one hand, that bodes well for Nebraska.

“We have a chance to beat ‘em, because they’re beatable,” Miles said. “They’ve proven that.”

Of course, on the other hand…

“They’re going to come in eating a bowl of nails for breakfast and snorting smoke out of their ears and nose because they’re mad,” Miles said, “and they’re Kansas, and they’re not going to lose three in a row. Our job is to withstand that initial pressure.”

That’s exactly what Arizona State did in its 95-85 victory. As expected, Kansas came out mad, wanting to atone for its 74-65 loss to Washington. The Jayhawks bolted to a 15-2 lead against the Sun Devils … and still lost by 10.

“Credit Arizona State,” Miles said. “They didn’t flinch. They just kept going.”

That must be Nebraska’s M.O. as well.

“I just look at it as despite what it says on the front of their jersey and what territory you’re in that way, we just have to look at them as, ‘We’re going to stop that guard, we’re not going to let that guy hurt us inside,’ and go from there,” Miles said. “Because sometimes, you’ll beat yourself before you even step on the floor.”

Unlike their last two games, the Jayhawks will be playing in front of a boisterous road crowd. The Saturday night game is sold out, and while some crimson and blue will certainly dot parts of the crowd, the atmosphere should be electric for the Huskers, what with fans knowing football recruits will be attending, while also mentally preparing for the Nebraska volleyball team’s national championship match.

“It should be a cool weekend,” said Miles, who will have one player, Anton Gill, receive his degree earlier in the day Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Fans attending the basketball game can stick around and watch the remainder of the Nebraska volleyball match against Florida, which begins at 8 p.m., on the video boards at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Miles watched on television Thursday night when Cook’s team clinched a spot in the title match by outlasting No. 1 Penn State in five games.

“I only caught some of it, and my blood pressure went up a whole bunch,” Miles said. “But congratulations to Coach Cook, his team and his staff, playing for a national championship.”

Of course, the Husker volleyball program was born in the Nebraska Coliseum, officially recognized and sponsored by Nebraska Athletics in 1975, less than two decades after Kubacki’s memorial shot in the same building.

Saturday, both will be a part of what’s shaping to be a monumental weekend for Nebraska athletics.

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

 

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