Lincoln – Shavon Shields’ 15 points led four Huskers in double figures, as Nebraska took control early for a 79-67 win over Arkansas State Saturday afternoon.
Nebraska, which improved to 7-3 on the season, put its best 20 minutes of the season together in building a 50-27 halftime lead. The Huskers shot 53 percent from the field, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range, in the opening 20 minutes while holding Arkansas State (5-3) to 38 percent in the half.
Nebraska got off to a blistering start, using a 15-0 run to build an early lead behind the play of Pitchford and Ray Gallegos, who combined for 11 of NU’s first 15 points. Pitchford opened the run with two long jumpers before a pair of Gallegos 3-pointers pushed the margin to 13 just 3:40 into the contest.
Pitchford finished with his first career double-double, totaling 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Gallegos had 13 points and a career high four assists, as Nebraska totaled a season-high 19 assists on 29 baskets.
Arkansas State responded by cutting Nebraska’s lead to 17-9 after a Kirk Van Slyke basket, but Nebraska responded with another 8-0 to build a 25-9 lead just 9:39 minutes the contest. The Huskers led by as many as 24 points in the first half en route to scoring 50 first-half points for the first time since 2008.
In the second half, the Red Wolves opened the half with a 7-2 run to get within 52-35 after a Van Slyke jumper to force a Nebraska timeout, but Shields and the Huskers regrouped. The sophomore forward scored seven of his 16 points in an 11-0 run to extend the lead to 28, at 63-35, with 14:42 remaining.
Arkansas State fought back, cutting the 28-point deficit to 11 in the final two minutes, but the outcome was never in doubt.
Van Slyke led Arkansas State with a game-high 27 points and seven rebounds, while Melvin Johnson II had 18 points and three rebounds.
The Huskers will be off for finals before returning to action next Saturday, Dec. 21, against The Citadel. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be carried on the Husker Sports Radio Network and online on the Big Ten Digital Network.
*-Nebraska’s 15-0 run was the longest of the season. The previous high was 10 points (vs. Florida Gulf Coast and vs. South Carolina State). Nebraska also had an 11-0 run in the second half.
*-Nebraska scored 50 points in a first half for the first time since Dec. 3, 2008 against Alabama State)
*-Today’s attendance of 15,949 is the largest in school history (15,332 vs. Northern Illinois).
*-Walter Pitchford’s 10 rebounds is a career high, as he also had eight against Northern Illinois. It marked his first career double-double and second of the season for Nebraska.
*-Ray Gallegos’ four assists are a career high, as his previous best was three assists on three previous occasions).
*-Nebraska had a season-high 19 assists, including career highs from Deverell Biggs (six), Tai Webster (five) and Gallegos (four).