Nebrasketball fans got their first in-person look at Fred Hoiberg’s team on Friday night at the Opening Night with Husker Hoops.
Fans filled most of the lower bowl and some of the 200-level seating at Pinnacle Bank Arena to meet both the men’s and women’s teams, hear from both Fred Hoiberg and Amy Williams and and watch the men’s team scrimmage for 20 minutes.
The nightcap was a concert by Rick Ross, though it tok a while for the concert to begin.
Former Huskers Isaiah Roby, Isaac Copeland Jr., Evan Taylor, Atnon Gill, Tanner Borchardt and Johnny Trueblood were among those in the house. Nebraska also hosted several recruits on visits and gave them a chance to see the kind of fan support Nebraska has.
After taking a crack at his team’s dancing ability, Hoiberg addressed the crowd.
“I can’t thank everybody enough for all the support that we’ve gotten since we took this job back in April,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve had a whole new roster that we had to put together with 13 new guys. I couldn't be more proud of these guys for the way they’ve come together. We had a trip to Italy last month and the best thing about that trip is it forced our guys to spend a lot of time together. When you have 13 new players, and not one of these guys have played together, to have the opportunity to bond and spend time together was phenomenal and we’ve seen them grow as a group, as people and as basketball players.
“We’ve got the most supportive fan base I think in all of athletics … What we’re going to do, every time we step on this floor, is we’re going to put a product on the floor to make all of you very proud. We’re going to leave everything out there.”
Hoiberg also said the football team is going to “whoop up on the Buckeyes,” which drew a nice ovation from the crowd.
After a brief warm-up, the Huskers got after it with two 10-minute, running clock halves.
The Red team featured Cam Mack, Dachon Burke Jr., Haanif Cheatham, Thorir Thorbjarnarson, Yvan Ouedraogo, Dalano Banton, Akol Arop and Jace Piatkowski.
The White team included Jervay Green, Samari Curtis, Matej Kavas, Shamiel Stevenson, Kevin Cross, Derrick Walker, Charlie Easley and Bret Porter.
The scrimmage featured very little defense and some ice-cold perimeter shooting but the Red team managed to take a commanding lead and cruised to a 56-39 win. The two sides shot a combined 7-of-32 from 3.
The teams traded buckets early but the Red team took control with a 14-0 run, pulling ahead 20-7. At halftime, the Red squad led 24-13 after a combined 3-19 shooting from 3. Back-to-back dunks by Green pulled the White team within eight at 27-19 but that was as close as they got as the Red team ripped off an 11-2 run to end the comeback.
Western Kentucky transfer Dalano Banton led the Red team with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds. He did a lot of his work on the offensive glass, crashing in for put-backs with his length. He had a couple impressive takes to the basket as well. He’ll sit out this season as a redshirt, and a year in the weight room should help him to finish a couple of the shots he missed.
Burke, the star of last year’s preseason open scrimmage, popped again, finishing with 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting (1-of-5 from 3), seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Burke made plays all over the court with his quickness and athleticism, setting up his teammates, crashing the glass and finishing above the rim.
Ouedraogo, the 17-year-old big man from France who came out with a French flag draped over his shoulders, finished with 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting and four boards. He showed a soft touch on his hook shot and at one point grabbed a board and went coast-to-coast, spinning to the basket for a bucket. He missed three bunnies in a row but bounced back to finish strong with a rim-rocking slam.
Mack, the sophomore point guard from Texas by way of Salt Lake Community College, didn’t shoot well but finished with nine points and four assists. Early on, Mack showed off his quickness and vision when he shook his defender and dropped the ball off to a cutting Thorbjarnarson for a layup and later he showed off his athleticism with a breakaway slam.
Curtis, the freshman from Ohio, was the star for the White team, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-6 from the field (2-of-4 from deep) and 1-of-1 from the foul line (the only free throw attempt of the night). He’s got an unorthodox shot but has deep range regardless as his first 3 came from way downtown. He was a little loose with the ball but also made a couple of plays for his teammates.
Walker, the transfer from Tennessee, and Easley, the freshman walk-on from Lincoln Pius X, added six and five points, respectively. Cross, the freshman forward from Arkansas, only scored two points but showed off his vision with four assists, the first which resulted in an early dunk from Stevenson, the transfer from Nevada.
After the scrimmage, Cheatham, the graduate transfer who had seven points for the Red team, grabbed the microphone and addressed the crowd.
“We appreciate you guys coming out,” Cheatham said. “We’re looking forward to your guys’ support throughout the whole season. We know we’re going to do big things this year and we know we’re going to go all out for you guys this year on this court. Thank you guys for coming, appreciate it. Go Big Red.”
After a lengthy delay, Rick Ross finally arrived shortly before 9 p.m. and brought both the women’s and men’s team onto the stage for his performance which lasted about 35 minutes.
The Huskers will return to Pinnacle Bank Arena in just over a month as the Huskers will host Doane in an exhibition game on Oct. 30.
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.