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Nebrasketball: Big Ten-ACC Challenge Not Gone As Planned

A 2-1 performance in the Cayman Islands Classic, could the Huskers keep the winning streak alive?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After starting the season ice cold from three point range, the Huskers showed some life behind the arc in the Cayman Islands Classic, going 2-1 and grabbing third place. Tonight, was a game Nebraska needed to stay hot from three, did they do that?

To start off Georgia Tech came out in zone defense, begging Nebraska to beat them from deep. Dachon Burke made the first Husker’s three attempt, but that would be the only made three for the first ten minutes of the game.

Struggling on offense, Nebraska turned to defense and Georgia Tech missed shots into points, with Haanif Cheatham taking charge on the fast break. Cheatham over the Thanksgiving games showed flashes of his Big East All-Freshman Team talent, as well as leadership skills this team desperately needs.

For awhile both teams went back and forth with miss after miss, it was just not good basketball. However, when the Icelandic native checked in, a spark was ignited.

Thorir Thorbjarnarson came in to score six points and take two charges as the Huskers took an early lead at the U8 Media Timeout. Thor hasn’t played as much this year, but every time has given his full effort and serves as a nice role player. After taking a 26-22 lead, the Yellow Jackets responded with a 10-0 run, and finished with a 32-28 lead over Nebraska at the half.

Georgia Tech came out of the gates strong, with Michael Devoe leading the way with 20 points at the U12 Media Timeout, not to mention Nebraska had missed 11 of their 12 first shots at that point. Now you may look at that and say, “well how can it get any worse than missing that many field goals?”

I have never seen a team struggle more from the free throw line than Nebraska. Their defense forced turnovers and produced fast breaks, but here’s catch, Georgia Tech fouled them every time someone drove to the hoop. By the U8 Media Timeout, Nebraska had drew nine fouls, but shot 8-16 from the charity stripe in the second half alone.

On the road, which in this case was Nebraska’s first true road test, if you can’t make jump shots, free throws can be your best friend. Driving to the hoop and drawing contact is the best way to solve shooting from behind the arc, but the Huskers could not get the job done.

At the U4 Media Timeout the score sat at 62-51 Yellow Jackets, and any fan at that point knew the game was over when they saw Nebraska was 6-27 from the field. Turnovers also didn’t help, turning the ball over for their 17th time right before the subs began to check in.

Overall, the team was tight and nervous in their first road test, and that can happen. This will happen a lot throughout the season unfortunately, and if they want to change the outcomes of these games, free throws must be made. There’s no other way if they don't shoot well from three point range.

Cheatham led the team tonight with a double-double, 14 points and 11 rebounds, as well as the main force behind Nebraska’s fast break points. It seems as if the top four, Cheatham, Burke, Cam Mack, and Jervay Green have had each of their own “break-out” performances, and if they can find a way to intertwine those games in the future, this team can pull off a couple solid Big Ten games.

Nebraska loses 73-56.

Next game this Saturday is against Creighton at 2:30 PM ET, and that game could get out of hand fast if the Huskers can’t shoot well from three. Hoiberg has a couple days to prepare his team for the same, so let’s hope we can stay competitive. Still a long season. GBR!