Apparently, it's heart attack week in Corn Nation.
First, the Huskers need a school-record long field goal to beat Colorado on Friday. Then, Saturday night, the hoopsters come back from the dead, roll up a big lead, blow it -- twice -- and then manage to hit a game-winning layup with two seconds to go. Wowza.
For those of you who didn't watch, NU was down 31-18 at the half, then came out in the second half and outscored Creighton 29-10 over the first 12 minutes of the second half. No one at all scored for the next 5 minutes, then all sorts of craziness happened at the end.
Why did it happen? Let's look back to my scouting report on the Jays:
- Force Turnovers and get points off them. Creighton is vulnerable to them, and Nebraska forced 12 in each half. In the first half, those 12 TOs turned into 8 NU points, but 14 pts in the second half were off the 12 TOs.
- Take advantage of Creighton's weakness on the boards. Creighton outrebounded the Huskers 24-12 in the first half, and had 11 offensive boards. Rebounding was even at 15 in the second half, with the Jays only having 3 offensive boards.
- Keep Creighton off the free throw line. The Jays were 9-10 from the line in the first half, but only 2-3 (with a lane violation) in the second half.
- Limit Creighton's sharpshooters. Creighton was 4-10 from behind the arc in the first half, and had at least 6 open looks. They were 3-9 in the second half, and really only had 2 or 3 good looks.
Also (and I missed this one in my scouting report), the Huskers had to control Creighton's transition baskets, which they did fantastically, shutting down the Jays' fast break completely (NU outscored Creighton 12-0 on fast breaks).
Off course, this win had a lot to be critical about, too. First off, the Huskers were too timid against Creighton's zone all night. They kept trying for the 3 when they fell behind (eventually hitting them in the second half) rather than trying to break the zone. When the Huskers drove and broke the zone, they got easy shts.
Second, the Husker D overpursued in the half court, especially late in the first half, which left some Creighton shooters wide open. They also made a lot of silly fouls in the first half.
The second half was much better, but they still were afraid to attack the zone. Defensively, the second half was fairly close to flawless, with only one or two real lapses. If we can play the whole game like we did in the second half, we'll have a pretty good shot of knocking off Arizona State next Sunday.
Offense: C. This could break down as a D- for the entire first half, an A for the first 12 minutes of the second half, an F for the next 6 minutes, and an A for the last 2 minutes. I think that averages about a C.
Defense: A. Forcing a fast-pace team like Creighton to play a very slow, methodical game is a certain way to be in the game. Forcing turnovers on 24 of 64 possessions? That's going to win you most games. Holding your opponent to 35% shooting? Also a formula for defensive success. Do all 3? Can't ask for much more than that.
Rebounding: C-. This is an F for the first half, and a B+ for the second half, averaging out to a C-. Creighton had 11 offensive boards on 24 first half misses. That will lose you a lot of games. In the second half, the Huskers aggressively crashed the defensive and offensive glass, and that really helped change the direction of the game.
Ball Handling: B-. Normally, I wouldn't be happy about 16 TOs, but there were a few offensive fouls, and the refs were calling all the travelling variations (travel, carry, double dribble) tightly in the first half. More importantly, Husker turnovers didn't lead to a lot of Creighton scoring -- 6 points for the game, none of which off the fast break.
Coaching: A. Doc figured out exactly what buttons to push today. The team that came out after halftime played with such fire and intensity that Creighton took until the last 3 minutes to mentally adjust (after they'd blown all their TOs trying to make something happen).
Crowd: A. This is why we need to get non-conference games that people will come to see. No one comes to see Arkansas-Pine Bluff and the other SWAC teams, but Creighton, Oregon, Marquette, and other big-name opponents do bring in good crowds. And the crowd fed off and into the energy the Huskers played with in the second half.
Overall: B. This would be an A for the second half, and a D for the first half. In the first half, Nebraska did pretty much everything they could do wrong against the Jays. In the second half, they did pretty much everythng they needed to do to win.
Player of the Game: the Husker Seniors (Steve Harley, Ade Dagunduro, and Paul Velander). It's a cop-out, but there wasn't a great way to decide who really had a bigger impact. Harley led all scorers with 18, hit key free throws, layins, steals, and everything else down the stretch. Ade hit the three that launched the Husker rally, had a lot of drives and defensive stops, and hit the game winning shot. Velander hit 3 3s in the big NU run and had tips and box-outs on the defensive end. Props to all.
Next Week: Alabama State visits the Devaney on Wednesday, before the Big XII-Pac 10 Challenge game at Arizona State on Sunday afternoon (which is huge for postseason chances).