Nebraska made its free throws down the stretch when it had to, as the Huskers nearly gave away a 19-point lead before holding on for a 68-59 win over Nicholls State Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 11,011 at the Devaney Center.
The Huskers, who improved to 9-4 on the season, went 10-of-10 from the foul line in the final minute after struggling from the charity stripe for most of the afternoon. Brandon Ubel led four Huskers in double figures with 18 points, including 10-of-11 from the free throw line, setting career highs in free throws made and attempted. Ubel was 6-of-6 in the final minute to send the Huskers into Big Ten play on a winning note.
Nicholls State, which never led, pulled to within 58-54 after a T.J Carpenter 3-pointer with 1:04 left before Ubel got to the line on the inbounds play with 57 seconds left. The Huskers were just 10-of-23 on the day from the line at that point, including 8-of-18 in the second half, but the senior calmly sank both free throws to push the lead back to six. The Colonels got to within 60-56 on its next offensive possession, but David Rivers knocked down another two free throws, as Nebraska ended Nicholls State’s comeback bid.
Dylan Talley and David Rivers had 12 each for Nebraska, while Ray Gallegos was the fourth Husker in double figures with 10 points, as Nebraska took control midway through the first half and led by as many as 19 points with 12 minutes remaining.
Nebraska jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first five minutes and led 12-10 before Ubel keyed a 13-0 surge over a span of 4:17 to build a 15-point lead. Ubel scored six of his eight first-half points in the run, as the Huskers took a 15-point lead at 25-10 after a Talley 3-pointer. In all, the Huskers held Nicholls State (1-9) to just 21 percent shooting in the first half in building a 31-17 halftime lead.
Nicholls State was within 12 early in the second half before Gallegos sparked a 7-0 run with consecutive 3-pointers to give Nebraska a 49-30 lead with 12:02 left. Nebraska’s attack would sputter, and Nichols State responded with a 9-2 spurt to get within 51-39 after 3-point play by T. J. Carpenter with 7:37 left. The Huskers would eventually push the margin to 56-42 on a Dylan Talley 3-pointer with 5:51 left, but the visitors used a 12-2 spurt to close within four points in the final minute.
Dantrell Thomas led three Nicholls State players with 18 points, including 16 points in the second half after 1-of-11 shooting in the first 20 minutes.
The Huskers open Big Ten Conference action on Wednesday, Jan. 3, when the Huskers travel to Ohio State. Tipoff is slated for 5:30 p.m. (central) and will be carried on the Husker Sports Network and televised on BTN.