Now this is how a rivalry starts.
From the moment Nebraska joined the Big Ten, a rivalry between the Huskers and Iowa seemed like a natural fit. But real rivalries need an inciting incident.
Saturday’s game at the Devaney Center might do the trick.
In front of a crowd that was approximately one-third Iowa fans hoping to see the Hawkeyes improve their tournament resume, Nebraska (13-14, 4-10) rallied from a 19-point first half deficit to beat Iowa 64-60. Dylan Talley delivered the fatal blow with 9 seconds remaining, drilling a 3-pointer from 25-feet out with the shot clock expiring to give Nebraska the win.
While coach Tim Miles was hesitant to call it a program-defining win, he was willing to admit this: “”It is something we wouldn’t have done before Christmas.”
Iowa (17-10, 6-8) played like a team with its postseason hopes on the line early in Saturday’s game. Former South Sioux City High star Mike Gesell, running the point for the Hawkeyes on the floor where he won a pair of state titles, hit a pair of jumpers early to quiet a hostile crowd. Iowa built from there.
Two disastrous stretches appeared to have doomed Nebraska in the first half. The first started with 8:11 remaining and the Huskers down 19-13. Nebraska’s next six possessions went like this: Benny Parker missed two free throws, Ray Gallegos missed a 3, turnover, turnover, turnover, turnover. The Hawkeyes extended their lead to 13.
The second came after Nebraska had trimmed the Iowa lead to 10 with 2:16 left. Iowa guard Eric May hit a 3-pointer followed by back-to-back 3s from Roy Devyn Marble to give Iowa it’s biggest lead of the game at 41-22. A three-point play by the Huskers’ Shavon Shields salvaged at least some momentum from a decidedly lackluster first half.
“Coach came in at halftime, erased everything on the board that we had written as keys for the second half and said ‘none of it matters unless you play with energy,’” forward Brandon Ubel said.
Message sent. Nebraska outscored Iowa 25-11 over the first 12 minutes of the second half to make it a one possession game at 53-30 with 7:19 left. Just short of five minutes later, a nifty step-back jumper from Shields gave Nebraska its first lead, 58-57, since going up 2-0 less than a minute into the game. Shields scored 11 of his 17 points over the final 20 minutes, but that was just a prelude to Talley’s heroics.
The senior guard put the Huskers on his back, scoring 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half. After shooting just 1-for-7 over the first 20 minutes, Talley finished the game by going 7-for-11 from the field. Nebraska needed every one of them.
With the game tied at 60, Talley missed a jumper with 1:29 left but Ubel stepped up to rescue the Huskers, taking a charge from Marble with 45 seconds left. Nebraska again looked to Talley but Iowa sprung a trap on him just over the half court line, forcing Miles to use Nebraska’s last timeout with 20 seconds remaining and 11 seconds left on the shot clock. Miles drew up a play for Talley. It wasn’t the play that ended up winning the game.
The Hawkeyes forced Nebraska to inbound the ball in the back court, switching each Nebraska screen. Talley was left with no option but to take it himself. He crossed over, pulled up from about 25-feet out and stuck the shot.
“First of all they did a good job staying in screening options, and sometimes when teams do that to us we just shut down,” Miles said of the sequence. “So Dylan made a play. I’m thankful he did.”
“It wasn’t that difficult of a shot, but it might not have been the best shot,” Talley said after the game. “I get yelled at sometimes in practice for crossover 3-point shots, but the clock was winding down and I had to do it.”
Iowa had a chance to tie when Gesell got an open look from three with just under five seconds left, but the shot rimmed out. The former Nebraska prep star was held to just two points over the game’s final 36 minutes. A Gallegos free throw with two seconds remaining sealed the win for Nebraska. It was the Huskers third-largest comeback since the 1996-97 season.
Perhaps most surprisingly, Nebraska did it without subbing in the second half. The Huskers’ five starters played all 20 minutes.
“I made a conscious effort that we were going to play those five,” Miles said. “I felt like we gave everybody a chance in the first half, but we couldn’t get them under control. So when we thought those were our five solid most dependable guys and that is who we played.”
The result was zero bench points for Nebraska, but four of the five starters ended up scoring in double figures. In addition to Talley and Shields, Ubel added 12 points and Gallegos netted 11. Iowa was led by Marble’s 18 points and a double-double from Aaron White (15 points, 13 rebounds).
Nebraska next travels to Madison to take on Wisconsin on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. The game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Nebraska improved to 5-0 this season in games decided by five points or less … The win was the Huskers first over Iowa in the Devaney Center. Nebraska was 0-2 at home against the Hawkeyes previously … Talley’s game-winner was the second of his career. He also hit a shot to win in the final seconds against Florida Gulf Coast in December of 2010 … Shields reached double-figures in scoring for the sixth time this season. Five of those games have come in Big Ten play.