It was all treats and no tricks for the Nebraska men’s basketball team on Sunday as they dominated their exhibition matchup against Colorado 82-67 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers never trailed in the contest, leading 44-28 at halftime and by as many as 27 points in the second half against their former Big 8 & Big 12 Conference mates.
Five-star freshman Bryce McGowens led all scorers with 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the floor, including 2-for-5 from 3-point range and 3-for-5 at the free throw line.
Nebraska grabbed control of the game defensively, forcing Colorado into missing 10 straight field goals, allowing NU to surge ahead 16-6 before the Buffs broke their cold spell with Nique Clifford’s and-1 lay-up off an offensive rebound at the 14:05 mark.
Still leading by seven, the Big Red unleashed an avalanche of steals and bombs. Senior Alonzo Verge, Jr. snatched a bad pass after a lay-up, and freshman C.J. Wilcher knocked down a 3-pointer. Then freshman Wilhelm Breidenbach nabbed a loose ball and found sophomore Keisei Tominaga from three. A timeout from CU Head Coach Tad Boyle couldn’t stem the tide, as junior Trey McGowens stole another poor pass and freshman Keon Edwards hit from downtown. Even though the Buffs finally got a shot off, it missed, and Wilcher buried another 3-ball.
Once the dust settled, Nebraska had extended their advantage to 30-9. Over the course of three minutes, NU forced five Buffalo turnovers and nailed five of six shot attempts, good for a 14-0 run. Colorado was never closer than 12 points the rest of the game.
“Generally, the team that plays with the most energy is the team that comes out on top,” Hoiberg said after the victory. “I thought our hand activity was outstanding. We got deflections early in the game and it led to run outs. Our stretch in the first half led to three or four threes.”
Leading by 16 at halftime, Nebraska had eight scorers contribute to the effort. NU shot a sizzling 55.2% overall in the first half, hitting 6-12 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, their defense didn’t slip, stifling CU to just 27.6% overall and a mere 2-12 on their 3-pointers.
To begin the second half, NU turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions. Colorado could not take advantage, as the Husker defense again forced the Buffs into an 0-for-10 drought.
With 14:19 remaining, Nebraska effectively landed the knockout blow with another scoring flurry. Still enjoying a 20-point lead at 53-33, Trey McGowens stole the ball, and after misses from Bryce McGowens and junior Lat Mayen, Bryce hit a third-chance 3-pointer. Colorado’s K.J. Simpson matched it, but Breidenbach answered with a trio. Lawson Lovering hit a hook shot, only to be followed by another Breidenbach bomb. Luke O’Brien laid one in, only to see Tominaga drain yet another three, NU’s fourth straight. Another Buff turnover led to a Trey McGowens lay-up, and NU had a 27-point lead at 67-40, their largest of the game.
Colorado did dominate the glass with 23 offensive rebounds. The Huskers offset that by holding CU to just 19 second chance points off those boards.
NU took full advantage of their steals, scoring 21 points off 16 Buffalo turnovers. “We are at our best in transition,” Hoiberg said. “If we can get deflections and get turnovers, that leads to great offense and when you can get it off the glass.”
Junior forward Derrick Walker was a force in the paint, scoring 12 points and grabbing six boards. Wilcher and Verge added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Ten Huskers scored, including five who hit at least two 3-pointers in Bryce McGowens, Mayen, Tominaga, Breidenbach, and Wilcher, who led all players with three made triples.
This exhibition matchup was a big win not only for a young Husker squad, but also for a few local charities. Net proceeds from Sunday’s game will go to three local organizations: the TeamMates mentoring program, the YWCA of Lincoln’s Employ402 program, and the Nebraska Greats Foundation.
Nebraska will return to Pinnacle Bank Arena on November 9 for their regular season opener against Western Illinois. Tip-off is set for 7:00pm, and BTN Plus will offer the TV broadcast.