Nebraska survived a second-half rally from Lithuanian club Silute BC on Thursday to improve to 3-0 overall and sweep its back-to-back against Silute during its tour of Italy. Nebraska dominated in the second quarter but got outscored 42-20 in the second half, resulting in a 73-70 win a day after beating the same club 83-58.
“I don’t think we could have drawn it up any better, just to witness some type of in-game adversity,” assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih told Ben McLaughlin after the game. “It was a tale of two halves. I don’t think we could have played better the first 20 minutes and the second 20 minutes we definitely had the ball stick to our hands, we lost all the concepts that we were trying to force and we showed in the first half, and ultimately the score showed it in the way that we played.”
Dealing with adversity was something Coach Fred Hoiberg said the Huskers had struggled with during the workouts and practices leading up to the Italy trip, and Silute’s comeback attempt provided the coaches an opportunity to see how much progress Nebraska has made in that area.
“Overall, I think we were absolutely gassed, exhausted,” Abdelmassih said. “Back-to-back nights, which we’re going to experience a couple times during the season. Just to learn from this is going to be key. Ultimately, I felt like our composure was there. I do think part if it though was just exhaustion. They weren’t very emotional whatsoever in timeouts because of that exhaustion.”
Individual scoring: Samari Curtis 13, Haanif Cheatham 12, Dachon Burke 11, Matej Kavas 9, Jervay Green 8, Thorir Thorbjarnarson 7, Dalano Banton 6, Shamiel Stevenson 5 and Kevin Cross 2.
Burke has been in double figures in all three games and is leading Nebraska in scoring during the trip at 14.0 points per game (11, 20, 11).
Nebraska started a new lineup once again as Green, Curtis, Cheatham, Thorbjarnarson and Kavas got the call to begin the game. Seniors Kavas and Cheatham have started all three games.
Nebraska got off to a hot start, knocking down four 3-pointers in the first three minutes and jumping out to an early 12-6 lead. However, the Huskers cooled off later in the period and Silute rallied to tie it at 22-all heading into the second quarter.
Silute took its first lead at 25-24 early in the second but freshman walk-in Charlie Easley got into the action, leading a fast break and setting up Dachon Burke for a slam to re-take the lead at 26-25, sparking a run by the Huskers capped by Matej Kavas’ third triple of the game that put the Huskers up 33-25, but they were just getting started. The Huskers dominated the second quarter 31-7 and led 53-29 at halftime.
The Huskers knocked down seven 3s in the first half and five players scored at least seven points.
Silute scored the first 10 points of the third quarter as it took four minutes for the Huskers to get on the board again, and it didn’t get much better from there. At the end of the period, Nebraska’s lead had fallen to 64-52.
That dunk was Thorbjarnarson’s first in a game, and it was all the more special because his parent were in the stands watching.
“It’s awesome,” Thorbjarnarson told McLaughlin. “My mom and dad, they never missed game when I was back home so I’m really used to having them up in the stands. It’s been kind of weird these past couple years with the Huskers. It’s just awesome to have them over here. My dad, I haven’t seen him since the Big Ten Tournament so I’m really happy to see them up in the stands.”
Don’t expect Thorbjarnarson to suddenly become a high-flyer, though.
“I told the guys there’s something in the water here in Europe,” Thorbjarnarson said. “I can’t promise these dunks over in America.”
Silute continued to make a push, pulling within five early in the fourth before Haanif Cheatham knocked down a big 3-pointer with just over seven minutes to play. Silute continued to hang around, chipping away and chipping away. Salute cut it to four at 71-67 with 47 seconds left and the Huskers missed their first shot on the following possession, but Burke tipped the miss in to put the lead back to six and the Huskers held on for the three-point win.
“It was good,” Thorbjarnarson said. “We started the game off pretty well and they kind of came back in the first quarter. The second quarter we played really well, we were sharing the ball really well. Then we kind of came out pretty flat in the second half and let them back in the game. I’m happy with the win but I think we could have responded a little better.”
The Huskers are 3-0, but the results are secondary to the camaraderie and familiarity with each other the Huskers are building during the action on and off the court.
“I’m getting to know these guys, we’re all getting to know each other,” Thorbjarnarson said. “We’ve seen some really good spurts through these games where we can really share the ball and do some damage. I’m really liking this squad and I think if we can put together a full 40-minute game we’re going to be pretty good.”
Nebraska will spend one more day in Florence before heading to Como for the duration of the trip. They Huskers return to the court on Monday to take on Italian Select in their final game. Tipoff is set for noon CT.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.