It won’t go down as one of the prettier games in Nebraska basketball history. The Huskers needed a missed layup and a pair of Dylan Talley free throws in the last 20 seconds to beat a poor shooting but pesky Jacksonville State team 59-55 at the Devaney Center on Tuesday night. But it was a win, the Huskers’ seventh on the season. Senior Brandon Ubel led the Huskers with 15 points and 10 rebounds while freshman Shavon Shields added a career-high 14 off the bench.
“We were fortunate,” coach Tim Miles said after the Huskers survived a 20-9 Gamecocks’ run to end the game. “We just plain got lucky.”
Nebraska (7-3) looked to have an answer to its recent offensive woes early, hitting five of its first seven shots to take a 13-11 lead. But the Huskers went scoreless over the next six minutes, a sign of things to come in the second half. A Ubel layup at the 7:42 mark ended the scoreless streak, and a 9-0 Gamecocks run, to pull Nebraska within five at 20-15.
The Huskers could’ve been down much more but Jacksonville State (8-3) had its own struggles on the offensive end. Brian Williams’ jumper with 9:38 left was the Gamecocks’ last made basket of the first half. The only other points for Jacksonville State came on a goaltending call at the 5:51 mark as Nebraska closed the first half on a 16-2 run. Ubel scored 7 of his 9 first half points during the run. Talley and Ray Gallegos, the Huskers other two primary scorers, were held to just 5 total points on five combined field goal attempts in the first half.
Things didn’t improve much for the Gamecocks on the offensive end early in the second half. JSU went just 3-for-9 from the field over the first nine minutes of the second half as Nebraska pushed its lead to double digits. Shields helped keep it there with four straight baskets over a two minute stretch to make it 48-35 at the nine minute mark.
“That’s as good as I’ve seen him,” Miles said of Shields’ performance. “He threw us a lifeline for a long time.”
But he couldn’t keep it up over the game’s final nine minutes. None of the Huskers could as Jacksonville State finally found a spot on the floor from which it could score — the foul line. The Gamecocks hit 9-of-10 free throws over a three minute stretch to cut Nebraska’s lead to 54-46 with 2:54 remaining. Back-to-back baskets by Darion Rackley, who led all scorers with 17, and a breakaway layup from Ronnie Boggs put the Gamecocks within four with 50 seconds remaining.
The Huskers had a couple of chances to ice the game at the free throw line but Mike Peltz missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 40 seconds left. Boggs hit a 3-pointer at the other end to close it to one. Gallegos was only able to hit one of two free throws on the following possession, setting up the key play of the game.
With under 10 seconds remaining, Jacksonville State guard Brian Williams got a clear path to the basket and drove the lane but his layup with 6 seconds remaining rolled off the rim. Talley grabbed the rebound, his only rebound on the night, and was fouled. His two free throws gave the Huskers the final margin of victory.
“We quit guarding the ball at all,” Miles said of the late game collapse. “We talked about going zone and I should have. I would have put the guys in a more favorable position but I didn’t. I wanted them to have to earn the victory.”
Nebraska did and it was an important one for the rest of the season.
“It’s big to get a win,” Ubel said. “If we want to get to any sort of postseason at all we’ve got to gut these next few out and then get into conference play and try to sneak a couple on the road and take care of home court.”
The Huskers will head to El Paso, Texas for two games in the Sun Bowl Classic on Dec. 22 and 23 before returning home to host Nicholls State on Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. CT.
Nebraska was 0-for-5 from 3-point range. It was the first time since Feb. 14, 1998 that the Huskers recorded a win without making a 3-pointer. The last time Nebraska didn’t have a 3-point field goal was a 59-49 loss to Vanderbilt in November 2010 … This was the third straight game where Shields set a career-high in points … The Huskers have now held 5 of 10 opponents to 60 points or less … Nebraska’s bench outscored Jacksonville State’s bench 18-4.