Nebraska had to wait an extra day to play its first game in Spain, but the wait was worth it as the Huskers pulled out an 89-85 overtime win against the Madrid All-Stars on Monday.
Nebraska trailed by six at halftime but rallied to send the game into overtime where the Huskers prevailed to start the trip 1-0 despite shooting poorly from the perimeter. Coach Fred Hoiberg said the team had to work off some rust early as they hadn’t done much at all on the court in Spain prior to the game and fatigue was a factor for the short-handed roster, but the team settled in and executed down the stretch.
“At the end actually we executed pretty well,” Hoiberg said. “We got the ball in the right guy’s hands, got the right match up and went to work and attacked, not only for ourselves, but we started making the right play. We had a lot of wide open 3s that we just did not knock down as well, and I think a lot of that had to do with guys not really having their legs out there. I think we were 9-for-36 from the 3-point line and a lot of those were wide open shots, so we’ve just got to keep going out there, creating, trusting.
“When we played the right way, got the ball shifted two or three times, we got really good looks. When we went one-on-one normally it did not result in a good possession. So we were better as the game went on and executed very well in the fourth quarter and overtime.”
While no live stream was available, Hoiberg said the Madrid All-Stars was a more cohesive, competitive opponent than college teams often play against during overseas trips.
“It’s a talented team that can really shoot the ball,” Hoiberg said. “They hurt us on the glass early. I thought we had some really good, physical block-outs late in the game that really helped us get on a run and send the game to overtime. So it’s a team that plays together quite a bit. A lot of these teams they just kind of throw together, but this team plays together all summer. You can see it, they had good chemistry out there. So it was a really good first test for us.”
Even beyond the cold 3-point shooting, Hoiberg said the biggest issue the Huskers ran into was ball security. They finished with 17 assists but also had 16 turnovers, some of which stemmed from players trying to do too much against Madrid’s ball pressure.
“It’s a very physical game over here,” Hoiberg said. “It was a really good test. They were big and physical and obviously with all four of our bigs out of the lineup right now it just gave a chance for some of the other guys to play in a physical game. So a really good contest, proud of the guys for finding a way to come back and win in overtime and a lot of lessons that we can learn from tonight.”
Charlotte transfer Brice Williams, who has only officially been with the program for less than a month because he was finishing up class work during the first summer session, led the way for Nebraska with 28 points, including 17 in the first half, plus five rebounds and four assists.
“Brice can really score the ball and he showed his versatility as a three-level scorer,” Hoiberg said. “He had some really good takes to the basket, where he’s very athletic with his ability to finish. He got it going from 3 for a stretch out there as well and actually hit a couple mid-range shots as well. So he just showed us his offensive package and versatility today. We got him on the right matchup and had him attacking, he made a couple of nice plays off the bounce … I was really, really pleased with Brice in his first game.
“We’ll continue to clean up some of the habits that we’ve instilled in some of the guys that have been here for a couple of months, but we’ve really only had Brice for about three weeks and nine practices. So there are some things that he’ll figure out … Plus he’s very good defensively. He’s got ability to guard one through five on the defensive end as well.”
C.J. Wilcher notched a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jamarques Lawrence added 14 points before suffering cramps late in the game. Juwan Gary also got some limited run as he returns from the shoulder injury that ended his season.
“Juwan Gary played nine minutes tonight,” Hoiberg said. “It was good to see him out there; he had a big offensive rebound, had a really nice dunk in the halfcourt. It’s important for him right now with these games to shake off rust. I brought him off the bench tonight; I will most likely start him if everything heals properly and the recovery goes well.”
Redshirt freshman walk-on Cale Jacobsen got the start and added 13 points and nine rebounds while showcasing his versatility.
“Cale Jacobsen made huge plays for us down the stretch, took a big charge, hit the tying free throw to send the game to overtime — he actually banked it — and then hit a huge 3 for us in the overtime to make it a five-point game,” Hoiberg said. “So I’m really proud of Cale for going out there and really getting his first minutes tonight.
Hoiberg said the 6-foot-4, 194-pound guard started the five for the short-handed Huskers but finished the game running the point because of Lawrence’s cramps.
“I was really happy with Cale and he was as important as anybody on the floor for us at the end of the game … He just has a great understanding for what we’re trying to do, and he took full advantage tonight and like I said, not only with the shots that he made at the end, but the big charge that he drew and the big rebound that he got at the end. So I’m really happy for Cale because I know how much work he put into this, especially his redshirt year. And absolutely he’s got a chance to be out there in the floor for us this year.”
True freshman Eli Rice also scored in double figures, finishing with 12 points and five rebounds, but he also showed his inexperience at times.
“I’ve been talking about Eli a lot, just how talented he is,” Hoiberg said. “We had a couple possessions at the end that we need to work on with Eli. He took a shot with about 14 on the clock and we had a lead late and then he tried to throw a full-court pass when they needed to foul and we ended up getting a turnover on that. So just a couple of things to clean up, but that’s what this is all about. This trip is to help us with situations like that where we can grow and learn and be better.
“But Eli does a lot of things you can’t teach. He’s incredibly athletic, he’s got a very nice shooting stroke and has the ability to move his feet. So, again, for Eli’s first opportunity to go out there and play there are certainly some things that he needs to get better at as there is with all of our guys, but really pleased with with Eli’s first opportunity on the court.”
One Husker who didn’t suit up was Iowa transfer guard Ahron Ulis. He won’t play in games two or three either for an undisclosed reason.
“Right now we’re gathering information on a situation that Ahron is dealing with,” Hoiberg said. “And right now that’s all I can say about the matter.”
Nebraska will next take the court on Wednesday at noon CT to face the Valencia All-Stars.