There was much made about some of the rule changes made to how college basketball games would be officiated beginning this season. Today, when the Huskers took the floor in the first game of the Charleston Classic vs. UMASS, we got a glimpse, a two-and-a-half hour glimpse, as to what everyone was concerned about. It'd be kind to call this game difficult to watch. The officiating crew of Ted Valentine, Les Jones and Tim Clougherty raised their hands and blew their whistles 61 times in this game, 82 free throws were attempted.
The angst hurled at the officials as this game went on and after was deserved, however, the Huskers did plenty on their own to keep themselves from winning this game. The Huskers played from behind most of the game, facing eight point deficits twice in the first half and saw it grow to as large as 13 with 9:31 to go in the game. The foul trouble was a major hurdle for the Huskers to navigate, as they saw starters Shavon Shields, Walter Pitchford, Tai Webster and Terran Petteway sit long stretches of the game with four fouls. Pitchford and Petteway both fouled out, along with Deverell Biggs.
However, the Huskers also had trouble slowing down the athletic duo of Derrick Gordon and Chaz Williams. The two combined for 30 points and wreaked havoc on the NU defensive efforts all day. UMass used an effective transition attack that kept the Huskers on their heels and kept the Huskers from mounting a full comeback. NU had no answer for the transitionary blitz, scoring 15 of their 17 second half field goals in the form of a layup.
To their credit the Huskers were able to climb their way back into the game with a steady attack to the rim of their own, making their way to the foul line 21 times in the second half. A big game from Petteway kept the Huskers within striking distance for much of the game. Putting up a career high 28 points before fouling out, he was aggressive attacking the rim and hit three times from deep.
The Huskers had five players score in double figures, but they were hurt by quieter performance than normal from Shields and Pitchford who only scored 15 points between the two of them. The Huskers will need those two to avoid days like that if they want to get back to winning basketball games. Ray Gallegos also left the game early in the second half with a lateral knee sprain with only two points scored.
Despite all the went wrong for the Huskers today, they were able to fight back into this game with an opportunity to cut it to a point with :23 seconds left after forcing a turnover near their own basket. David Rivers missed the contested layup and the Huskers were never able to get closer. The loss was the first of the season for the Huskers who will take the loser of the New Mexico/UAB matchup tomorrow morning at 11 AM on ESPNU.