Photo Credit: John S Peterson

Cornhuskers Go Cold in 69-56 Loss to Oklahoma

November 24, 2022

Nebraska played Oklahoma to a draw through the first eight minutes of the Huskers’ opening game at the ESPN Events Invitational on Thursday.

However, the Huskers could only muster 39 points in the last 32 minutes as the Sooners pulled away for a 69-56 win in Orlando. Nebraska falls to 4-2 including 0-2 against other high-major teams.

Nebraska shot 42% from the field including 3-of-14 from 3. Nebraska attempted 19 free throws to just three for the Sooners, but the Huskers only hit 11 of them (57.9%).

“We got off to a great start scoring the ball,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said during his post-game radio interview. “We make our first five field goal attempts, and then they got hot again — it’s kind of the same thing from the 3-point line — and opened it up a little bit. I thought in the second half, honestly, we got better looks than we did in the first half; we just couldn’t convert. We missed a couple right at the rim and missed the wide open 3s. We’ve got to find a way to convert those. And then again from the free-throw throw line, 11-of-19 and a couple of those were one-and-ones. We had plenty of opportunities.”

Juwan Gary led the Huskers in scoring for the second straight game with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting (2-of-5 from 3) and seven rebounds. Emmanuel Bandoumel added 13 points on 3-of-8 from the field and 6-of-8 from the line, five assists and four rebounds.

Bandoumel, C.J. Wilcher and Keisei Tominaga combined to shoot 1-of-9 from 3-point range.

The Sooners (5-1) had four players finish in double figures in Tanner Groves (17), Jacob Groves (16), Jalen Hill (13) and Grant Sherfield (10 points and eight assists). They shot 50.9% from the field (a season-high for a Nebraska opponent) including 45% (9-of-20) from 3 and turned the ball over just seven times.

Nebraska got off to a great start as Sam Griesel and Gary scored a couple of buckets each to give Nebraska a 10-6 lead out of the gates. However, the Sooners caught fire and hit Nebraska with an 11-2 run to take a 17-12 lead. Oklahoma’s first five buckets all came from behind the arc.

Gary knocked down Nebraska’s first 3 of the day then scored on a put-back to tie it up, but the offense dried up for the Huskers from there as they struggled to generate anything on that end. Oklahoma continued its hot shooting and outscored Nebraska 20-6 over the next six minutes and change as the Sooners built a 14-point lead.

Bandoumel knocked down a 3-pointer to halt Oklahoma’s run and build some momentum for the Huskers, and Nebraska continued to push back from there, using a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to six. Bandoumel scored six of the 10 with a driving dunk and a free throw in addition to the triple that triggered the run.

Oklahoma stole the ball and took it the other way for a layup to end Nebraska’s run, but Griesel drew a foul on a rebound with 1 second left and split a pair of bonus free throws to pull Nebraska within seven at the break at 41-34.

The Sooners shot 7-12 from 3 in the first half, surpassing their season average for triples (5.3) in just 10 minutes. Oklahoma shot 28.8% from deep in its first four games. The Groves brothers combined for 22 points and shot 4-of-5 from deep in the first half.

“We’ve got to get our heels past the 3 and I thought we were short on a couple of their close outs,” Hoiberg said after the Huskers let their opponent go off from 3 for the second straight game. “They had a couple guys that hadn’t hit shots all year that knock them down; give them credit on that. But just the urgency, we’ve got more urgency on it early.

Gary and Bandoumel led Nebraska with 11 points apiece as Nebraska shot 50% from the field but hit just two 3-pointers and left six points at the free-throw line. 

The Sooners scored the first two buckets of the second half including another 3-pointer from Tanner Groves to push the lead back to 12. The Huskers chipped away at the lead again, cutting it down to six with five straight points from the free-throw line, but the offense ground to a halt from there as Nebraska went nearly six-and-a-half minutes without scoring. The Huskers switched some things up defensively, mixing in some zone and small-ball to some effect, but it wasn’t enough.

Oklahoma stretched the lead back to 12 and then began trading buckets with Nebraska as Wilcher ended the drought with a mid-range jumper. The trading continued until Oklahoma used a 6-0 run to take its largest lead of the day before Gary hit a 3-pointer — Nebraska’s only one of the second half — at the buzzer.

“I’m proud of the guys for continuing to at least be resilient and continue to guard on that other end,” Hoiberg said. “We hadn’t played much zone yet this year and we’ve been working on it. Obviously we had to change it up to slow them down and we did, but again just our inability to put the ball in the hole at the end of the day cost us.”

Nebraska shot 34.6% from the field in the second half including 1-of-9 from 3. The Huskers only got to the line six times, missing three of them. Oklahoma missed its last five 3-pointers (two or three of which missed the rim entirely), but the damage was already done. 

Nebraska will drop into the loser’s bracket of the tournament and will play Memphis.

“We’ve got to bounce back, we can’t let this one linger,” Hoiberg said. “Hopefully we’ll knock down some shots tomorrow and get feeling good about ourselves in this game tomorrow. But you’ve got to have a short memory in events like this when you drop the first one and need to bounce back with a great effort tomorrow. We’re going to play a great team, whichever team loses this one between Seton Hall and Memphis. The important thing is getting back to the hotel, get them something to eat, get a film edit together and and get ready for the one tomorrow.”

Seton Hall took down Memphis 70-69 with a banked 3-pointer at the buzzer by Tyrese Samuel. SMU transfer point guard Kendric Davis led the Tigers with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists while senior big man Malcolm Dandridge added 14 points off the bench with eight of them coming from the free-throw line.

Memphis is 2-2 with losses to Seton Hall and St. Louis and wins over Vanderbilt and VCU. According to KenPom, Memphis is a top-50 team in both offense (47th) and defense (21st). The Tigers are shooting just 29.1% from 3-point range but get to the foul line at a steady rate.

Davis is averaging 20.5 points and 5.8 assists this season, though he appeared to leave Thursday’s game with an ankle injury before returning later on. Former SMU backcourt mate Bandoumel will likely draw the defensive assignment on Davis for Nebraska. Deandre Williams, a 6-foot-9 forward, is the only other Tiger averaging double figures at 12.5 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game, but he fouled out in just 10 minutes against Seton Hall.

Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. CT on Friday on ESPNEWS with Mark Neely and Randolph Childress on the call.

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