Photo Credit: Nebraska Athletic Communications

Second-Half Surge Sends Red Storm to 20-Point Win Over Huskers

November 17, 2022

Nebraska showed off all the grit and toughness that Coach Fred Hoiberg spoke of throughout the preseason in the first 20 minutes of Thursday’s Gavitt Tipoff Games matchup with St. John’s.

Then the second half happened and the wheels fell off during Nebraska’s first road trip of the season as the Red Storm (4-0) dominated the second half for a 70-50 win, handing Nebraska its first loss of the season.

“I thought we were the tougher team in the first half,” Hoiberg said during his post-game radio interview. “We did a good job getting back in transition even though our shots weren’t falling. We battled them on the glass, I thought, in that first half. I think they only got three [points] off turnovers on us in the first half. And then the second half completely flipped. We started driving into the pile and we got sped up all night long. Eighteen points off turnovers in the second half after three, that’s what they thrive on, especially in this building. Just a tough game, certainly a tough half.”

Keisei Tominaga was the only Husker who scored in double figures, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting (3-of-6 from 3) and 2-of-2 from the foul line. 

The Cornhuskers (2-1) shot 29.7% from the field including 18.5% from 3 and 50% from the foul line while turning the ball over 17 times. Juwan Gary grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds but scored just eight points on 4-of-14 shooting.

With Posh Alexander leading the charge at the point of attack and relentless pressure up and down the lineup, St. John’s limited Sam Griesel to six points on 2-of-4 shooting with four assists and eight turnovers. Emmanuel Bandoumel had three turnovers as well and scored five points on 2-of-10 shooting.

“Posh is good on the ball, buys into doing that for 32 minutes. He made life extremely hard on on our ball-handler, whether it was Sam or Emmanuel. We’ve just got to get another playmaker. It just shows you how important Derrick is with our scheme and everything that we do. Hopefully we’ll get him back sometime soon.” 

St. John’s matched Nebraska’s production from the 3-point and free-throw lines but shot 39.2% from the field and outscored Nebraska 40-22 in the paint. Big man Joel Soriano had a monster double-double with 17 points and 18 rebounds (six offensive)

The game was ugly from the start with both sides flying around the court on defense. The Huskers didn’t score until the 16:53 mark, but St. John’s only had one field goal in the first five minutes.

At the under-12 media timeout, the score was tied at 6-6 as the teams had combined to shoot 5-of-27 from the field and 2-of-8 from the foul line. Both teams went more than four minutes between buckets early.

The Huskers settled in offensively just enough to hit St. John’s with a 14-4 run including a pair of 3-pointers — one from Tominaga and one from Wilcher — to take a 22-12 lead 15 minutes in. Another triple from Tominaga made it 25-16 with three-and-a-half to go in the half, but Nebraska missed four of its last five shots as the Red Storm trimmed the deficit to 27-20 at the break.

Nebraska shot 34.4% from the field including 3-of-13 from 3 and 2-of-7 from the free-throw line with six turnovers. Tominaga led the Huskers with eight points on 3-of-3 shooting. St. John’s shot 23.5% including 0-of-10 from 3 and 4-of-6 from the foul line with 10 turnovers. The Johnnies grabbed 10 offensive rebounds but only converted them into eight second-chance points, just two more than the Huskers scored.

“There were so many positives, just with how we came out and threw the first punch and and kept going and kept battling even though our shots weren’t falling,” Hoiberg said. “The only guy that had any kind of rhythm was Keisei on the offensive end.” 

The Red Storm’s leading scorer, David Jones, picked up his second foul two minutes in as Blaise Keita took a charge on him. He played just seven total minutes in the first half and went 0-for-3 from the field.

St. John’s picked up the defensive pressure even more out of the locker room, and Nebraska did not have an answer. The Red Storm opened the half on an 18-3 run to take a 38-30 lead. Tominaga connected on a 3, just Nebraska’s second field goal of the half, but St. John’s responded with a 10-0 run including eight by Jones to push the lead to 15. The Red Storm feasted off turnovers and on the offensive glass after the Huskers kept them in check in those two areas early.

“We showed a lot of grit, a lot of fight, in that first half,” Hoiberg said. “We were all over the place, we were first to the floor, and then second half they flipped the script and they were first to the floor, they made first contact on every shot and 21 offensive rebounds. I thought we did a good job in our first shot defense, we just could not secure the ball. And then the 21 points off turnovers killed us.”

It only got worse from there as Nebraska never found a way to right the ship. The deficit peaked at 25 with a couple minutes to play before the Huskers scored the last five points of the game including a 3 from freshman Jamarques Lawrence.

Jones scored 15 points in 15 minutes for the Red Storm in the second half while Nebraska scored 23 points as a team. The Huskers shot 25% from the field and turned the ball over 11 times after halftime. St. John’s shot 52.5% with five 3-pointers after going 0-for from deep in the first half.

“Second half, we’ve got a lot to learn in order to play 40 minutes, play a complete game,” Hoiberg said. “Sam, I started feeling bad, he was jump-stopping and then the big fella was sitting under the rim. One, we didn’t have anybody that could make a shot and they would deny our guards and that’s where a lot of our turnovers came.”

Nebraska can’t dwell on the loss for long as the Huskers have a quick turnaround with Arkansas-Pine Bluff visiting Lincoln on Sunday.

“The makeup of this team is they’re going to bounce back,” Hoiberg said. “Tomorrow we’ll have a later practice and start putting in a game plan. We have two days to prepare for this team that should have beat TCU on the opening night. They lost by one but had them down 20 for a lot of that game and lost to Oklahoma by seven. They play hard, they’ve got a lot of talent that roster, so we need to bounce back and regroup.” 

Tipoff on Sunday is set for 2:30 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.

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