In the final regular-season game of the year, redshirt freshman Toney McCray posted a career-best 18 points and the Huskers hit 86 percent from the free throw line to hold on for a 66-62 victory over Baylor Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
With the win, Nebraska finished the conference season with an 8-8 record, marking the first .500 or better season for the Huskers in conference play since 1998-99.
NU finished in eighth place in the Big 12 standings and will be the No. 8 seed in the Big 12 Championship next week in Oklahoma City, where it will face No. 9 Baylor. It is the first time in Big 12 history that eight teams finished with at least eight wins in conference play.
McCray scored 11 points after the intermission while helping Nebraska come back from a six-point deficit. The Missouri City, Texas, native hit 7-of-10 shots from the floor in the game and added four rebounds, two blocks and two steals while playing in front of a large contingent of family and friends.
Baylor (17-13, 5-11 Big 12) scored the first six points of the second half to move ahead by a 31-26 margin and extended it to six points, 34-28, for their largest lead of the game on Tweety Carter’s 3-pointer with 15:34 to play.
From there, McCray and redshirt freshman Alonzo Edwards combined to score the Huskers’ next 10 points. Edwards, who had played a total of nine minutes in Big 12 action before Saturday, hit his second 3-pointer of the contest to knot the score at 38-38 with 10:19 to play. Edwards finished with six points on 2-of-3 shooting, including nailing both of his 3-point attempts, while playing seven minutes.
The teams battled back and forth with Baylor taking its final lead at 42-41 with 6:54 to play. Following Quincy Acy’s free throws that gave the Bears a one-point advantage, Ryan Anderson responded with his second 3-pointer of the game, putting NU on top for good.
McCray extended the lead as he blocked an Acy jumper and took it the other way, weaving through traffic to get it to Anderson running down the lane. A quick touch pass by Anderson got the ball back to McCray who laid it up for a 46-42 margin. McCray added a pair of free throws for a six-point advantage before the Bears made one more run.
LaceDarius Dunn hit five straight free throws, including three foul shots after being fouled outside the arc, to get BU back within one. Ade Dagunduro then got free in the lane and Anderson found him for an easy basket, the first of three straight responses in the last four minutes after Baylor closed within one point of the Huskers.
The Bears’ final challenge came with 1:48 to play as Curtis Jerrells, the sixth-leading scorer in Baylor history, hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to pull BU within one, 53-52. But the Huskers had one more answer as Anderson found Dagunduro for a dunk and virtually sealed the win.
Nebraska forced turnovers on the Bears next two possessions and moved ahead by six, 58-52, on Dagunduro’s free throw with 53 seconds to play. The Huskers went 10-of-10 at the free throw line in the final minute to nail shut any chance of a Baylor comeback.
Along with McCray, Dagunduro was the only other Husker in double figures with 11 points, including nine in the second half. Anderson finished with six points and five assists without a turnover while Cookie Miller had seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Huskers hit 45.5 percent from the field but nailed 19-of-22 from the free throw line to seal their third conference road win of the season.
Opening the game on a sluggish path, the Huskers went almost four minutes before scoring their first field goal when Steve Harley made a long jumper as the shot clock expired. Jerrells’ deep 3-pointer seconds later put Baylor back on top at the first media timeout, 5-4.
Neither team was able to get much separation as Baylor’s three-point lead on two occasions was the biggest difference until the Huskers went ahead 19-15 on Sek Henry’s 3-pointer with 9:53 left in the half.
The Huskers took the four-point lead primarily behind McCray, who scored all seven of his first-half points in a two-minute period. McCray had consecutive baskets to give the Huskers a 13-12 advantage and added a free throw followed by another breakaway layup after a Husker steal. He then had a rebound and a blocked shot in the stretch as the Huskers made it a 10-3 run.
Baylor took the lead one more time in the period, with consecutive baskets by Henry Dugat and Dunn, giving BU a 20-19 advantage before the Huskers went up for the remainder of the half.
Nebraska got back on top when Brandon Richardson had a nice layup in traffic after a scramble for a loose ball on the floor, and NU went back ahead by three with Harley’s third basket of the period. After a Dunn 3-pointer helped the Bears tie the game at 23-all, Henry’s trey with 1:25 left in the frame pushed NU to a 26-25 lead heading into the locker room.
The Cornhuskers return to the court on Wednesday, March 11, when they play a rematch with Baylor in the first round of the 2009 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship. The No. 8 Huskers and No. 9 Bears tip off at 11:30 a.m. in the first game of the championship at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.
The game will be televised in select markets around the country on the Big 12 Network and can be heard on the Husker Sports Network and Huskers.com.
Courtesy: Nebraska Media Relations