Nebraska bounced back from its first loss of the season to finish 1-1 at the Golden Window Classic with a 79-57 win over North Dakota State on Saturday.
The Huskers didn’t give themselves any time to dwell on Thursday’s 69-66 loss to the Wolfpack, instead turning their attention forward to the 11 a.m. tipoff against the Bison. Nebraska again set the tone defensively at the start of the game but this time they got off to a great start offensively as well.
North Dakota State kept battling throughout, but the Huskers delivered a knockout blow midway through the second half and pulled away to improve to 2-1.
“That’s the thing I love about this team,” Trey McGowens said. “We understand that we’re a good team. A lot of people might not believe us, but we believe in each other. We didn’t sulk on it.We had one of those nights where we really just couldn’t buy a bucket. We should have made up for it on the defensive end, but we understand that it wasn’t effort. If it was effort, there could have been some things that we said in the locker room, but it wasn’t effort. As long as it’s not effort, I think it’s stuff that’s fixable.”
The Huskers again struggled from deep, shooting 9-of-32 (28.1%), but this time they converted 64.5% of their looks inside the arc and out-scored the Bison 40-28 in the paint while holding them to 29% shooting overall.
Teddy Allen scored 17 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, shooting 9-of-17 from the field while grabbing seven rebounds and five steals.
After going scoreless in 23 foul-filled minutes against Nevada, McGowens scored Nebraska’s first four points and finished with 19 on 7-of-14 shooting (2-of-5 from deep) and 3-of-4 from the foul line.
“We ran something for Trey out of the gate, and that got him going,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He had the two quick layups right away, and once you see the ball go through the hoop it automatically gets your confidence going … I love Trey’s pace. I thought he really pushed the ball down the floor. He had one turnover, I thought, where he tried to attack numbers, but overall I thought Trey had a phenomenal game both on offense and defense.”
Dalano Banton flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-7 from the field and 4-of-5 from the line, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Lat Mayen, who shot 2-of-9 from 3 against Nevada, knocked down his first three triples and finished with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting overall. He played just eight minutes in the first half, at one point checking out to throw up in a trash can by the team bench, but later returned to the game and the Huskers outscored the Bison by 31 points in his 23 minutes. Hoiberg said that Mayen “pounded an energy drink” right before the game that didn’t sit well with him.
Outside of a stretch at the end of the first half, the Huskers’ first-shot defense was stout throughout. However, they struggled to keep the Bison off the offensive glass as North Dakota State corralled 22 boards on that end and converted them into 24 points. Sixteen of those points came in the first half.
“The first half, I feel like we were doing a lot of watching, as well as myself,” McGowens said. “The second half, we tried to make adjustments to attack the ball … The second half the main focus was just rebounding so we can get out and run.”
Sam Griesel, a Lincoln East graduate, finished with nine points and 12 rebounds for the Bison.
Nebraska was locked in defensively from the opening tip, stifling the Bison offense and racing out to a 19-4 start. North Dakota State made just two of its first eight shots and turned the ball over five times while the Huskers scored on eight of their first 10 possessions.
Nebraska’s fourth 3 of the game fell before he 14-minutes mark as the Huskers hit four straight after missing their first attempt. In the loss to Nevada on Thursday, Nebraska didn’t make its fourth 3 until the last possession of the first half, on its 20th attempt.
“The activity level out of the gates was exactly where it needed to be again,” Hoiberg said. “We have to continue that, we have to continue to get off to great starts. Generally, how you start the game is how you finish, and the way that we converted those turnovers obviously was so much better than it was against Nevada the other day. In a low-possession game, one-possession game, those matter. Maybe it doesn’t get to that last shot if we finish a couple of those plays early in the game.”
The Huskers fell into an offensive rut from there, however, as North Dakota State whittled the lead all the way down to seven as the Bison’s first 3 — from center Rocky Kreuser — made it 24-17.
A 10-4 run pushed the lead back to double digits at 34-21, but as the Huskers got back into an offensive flow their defensive effort slipped as they allowed a few straight-line drives to the rim. On the final possession, Yvan Ouedraogo blocked a shot out of bounds with less than a second on the clock, but the Huskers lost Jaxon Knotek in the corner for a 3 at the buzzer to cut it to 43-36 at the break.
Knotek led the Bison with 12 points as they scored 19 in the final five minutes of the half. North Dakota State only grabbed two more offensive rebounds than Nebraska (nine to seven) but took advantage at a much higher rate, winning the second-chance points battle 16 to four.
Nebraska shot 50% in the first half but was just 1-for-8 form deep after the hot start. Dalano Banton and Trey McGowens led the way with 10 points apiece in the first half while Banton also dished out five assists.
Allen put the team on his back early in the second half, scoring seven quick points during a 10-1 opening run for the Huskers. North Dakota State continued to muck up the game from there, cutting the deficit back down to 10 at 57-47, but the Huskers blew the game open from there with a 17-4 run that featured 10 points from Allen and seven from McGowens.
“I think it was just a lot of movement, and we tried to key in on stops and rebounds… I feel like when it was time to really lock in, we did,” McGowens said. “We really locked in on the defensive end, and we understand that offense is going to come, because we have scorers.”
After Allen’s last bucket, a corner 3, Hoiberg sent in his subs for the final 2:07 of the game and Yvan Ouedraogo, the sophomore center who has struggled offensively this season, converted his first non-dunk field goal of the season on a strong post move.
“Yvan, when you see him in practice, he’s been finishing the ball much better this year than he has last,” Hoiberg said. “It just has not carried over, unfortunately, to the game to this point. He, at times, will try to force it through bodies, and he has to kick those out… He’s stronger, he’s bouncier — I’m confident he’ll be a better finisher as we go on … Yvan, I thought, gave us some good minutes today with his physicality.”
Nebraska held North Dakota State to 17.6% shooting in the second half.
“You could see how much it bothered them in that locker room after the loss to Nevada,” Hoiberg said. “I did sense a good bounce-back game for us, and I was happy to see us come out with the energy early and the way we finished off those last seven or eight minutes, I think, shows what we’re capable of.”
The Huskers will get a couple days off before returning to Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday to host South Dakota and former Nebraska center Brady Heiman. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CT on BTN.