Nebraska will take third.
The Huskers’ trip to the Cayman Islands will end with two wins in three games, the latest coming after a 74-67 win over South Florida. It moves the Huskers to 4-3 on the year, their first time moving above .500 on the year. (South Florida moves to 3-4 and finishes the Cayman Islands Classic fourth.)
Nebraska will have a week off before hitting the road to face Georgia Tech next Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 6:15 p.m. CT for the B1G/ACC Challenge. That game will be on ESPNU. First, here are three thoughts from this game.
A Strong Close
A night after a horrible start doomed Nebraska, the Huskers used a conversely fantastic second half to roll past South Florida.
Nebraska shot 60.9% from the field and hit three of five from beyond the arc.
The big number, though, was in the turnover column. Or, in this case, a small number. Nebraska only turned it over three times in the second half after six in the first half.
Extra possessions helped South Florida build up a lead at halftime. Nebraska handed out offensive rebounds again like candy on Halloween and coughed up live-ball turnovers. Nebraska’s regular starter at point guard, Cam Mack, was replaced with forward Matej Kavas in this one, which gave point guard duties to Jervay Green. He had three turnovers, all of them in the first half.
But Nebraska clamped down over the last 20 minutes. Possessions were valued, the rim was attacked in transition and there was more of an emphasis on team rebounding.
South Florida shot just 36.4% over the final 20 and was outscored by nine. Nebraska played clean on both ends.
Oh, and the Huskers hit 14-of-19 from the free throw line.
I have no idea what to make of senior wing Haanif Cheatham.
I know he’s a glue guy. I know coach Fred Hoiberg likes the FGCU transfer because he’s a veteran voice and leader in a pretty young locker room. He has the intangible stuff coaches look for.
I didn’t think Cheatham would be this kind of a scorer. His best scoring season was the 13.2 points-per-game clip he posted in 10 games at Florida Gulf Coast before injury. In four of his last five games (a five-point clunker in the middle), Cheatham has scored 17 on 8-of-11, 19 on 8-of-10 against Washington State, 13 on 5-of-9 against George Mason, and now 26 on 8-of-11 against South Florida. He missed his first five triples of the season but has hit five of his last eight.
I don’t know what to make of him because I have no idea if his production is consistently replicable. Against the Bulls Cheatham was the guy in transition. He slashes to the bucket with a lot of quickness. He attacks the hoop—not the corner 3—in transition, he’s finishing through contact. Nebraska is getting out and running and Cheatham is finishing things off more often than not.
His scoring isn’t really impacting games right now in the same way Dachon Burke and Cam Mack and Jervay Green are, so I guess my question becomes this: tie game in conference play, 10 seconds on the shot clock, is Cheatham going to be able to hit that corner 3 when the game has slowed down and possession have become fewer and farther between?
It’ll do a lot for this Husker offense if that answer is yes. So far, though, Cheatham is finding ways to bring value beyond the locker room stuff.
It’s probably time to talk about Nebraska’s 3-point defense.
The Huskers are middle-of-the-pack nationally in terms of allowing triple attempts, but as a percentage of the opponent’s overall shot attempts Nebraska is limiting the 3-ball on the year. Teams also haven’t killed them from beyond the arc this season. Heading into this three-game stretch, Nebraska had allowed just one team to shoot over 33% from deep—UC Riverside in the opener.
These last few games, though, opponents aren’t just getting good looks, they’re sinking them.
George Mason shot 44% on 25 takes in building a 19-point lead. USF hit eight of its first 22. (Five straight misses to close the game included three desperation heaves in the last 30 seconds.) We’re not raising any DEFCON levels here but after a stretch to open the year that saw the Huskers racing to close out and getting blown by, they’ve gone from one end of the spectrum to the other, they’ve been entirely too slow to close out and it gave the Patriots and now the Bulls comfortable, in-rhythm looks.
Nebraska shot 50% from the field for most of the afternoon yet trailed nearly the entire first half and never got permanent separation in the second half. Credit the 3-ball for that. The Bulls got open looks late. Nebraska won, in part, because those didn’t fall.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.