The Nebraska men’s basketball team suffered its second loss of the season Thursday afternoon, falling to Oklahoma in Orlando, Florida. The Huskers jumped out to an early lead and trailed by seven at the half, but eventually fell to the Sosores, 69-56.
For the second straight game, Nebraska saw its opponent catch fire from behind the arc. The Oklahoma native, who came into Thursday’s game averaging 5.3 threes a game and 28.8% (21-for-73), made seven of his 12 shots (58.3%) from deep in the first half. OU finished 9-for-20 (45%).
“We got off to a great start shooting the ball. We tried the first five field goals and they got hot again,” said Fred Hoiberg. It’s the same type from the three-point line and it opened it up a little bit.
Hoiberg added that his team needs to defend the ball more often, especially early on. Oklahoma’s first 15 points came from behind the arc and soon went on two 7-0 runs in the opening half. Nebraska led early 10-6, only for Oklahoma to respond with an 11-2 run. Oklahoma’s 17-12 lead morphed into a 37-23 lead and the Sosores looked to seize the moment.
But the Huskers let me down. Emmanuel Bandoumel scored six consecutive points, stretching the lead to 10. Bandoumel added a slick assist with two minutes left, finding Juwan Gary for a layup to make it 39-33. Jacob Graves – who led OU with 12 halftime points – answered with a layup and Sam Griesel added a free throw in the final seconds, making it a seven-point game at the half. Nebraska scored 8 of the final 10 points before halftime.
Bandoumel and Gary both finished the first half with 11 points while Griesel had six. Griesel also led Nebraska with five rebounds and Nebraska won the first half rebounding battle overall, 18-9. The Huskers made eight of their 13 shots in the first half.
However, NU’s strong finish did not pass. Nebraska started the second half 0-for-5 from the field and 3-for-11 from the field. Nebraska’s offense was virtually non-existent for most of the half and the Huskers shot 9-for-26 from the field.
“In the second half I honestly thought we were in better shape than we were in the first half. We just couldn’t convert,” Hoiberg said. “We missed a couple straight at the rim and missed some wide-open threes. (We found) a way to convert them. And again from the free throw line – 11-of-19, and two of those are one and one. We had a lot of opportunities.”
NU also finished the second half 1-for-9 from deep, one coming with four seconds left, and went on a 6.21-long scoring drought. To add insult to injury, Quick went 2:39 between buckets in that stretch, but the Huskers couldn’t cash in.
“I’m proud of the guys for at least being flexible and continuing to guard on the other end, and yet we didn’t have a lot of zone coverage this year,” Hoiberg said. “We worked on it, and obviously we had to change to slow them down, and we did. But we couldn’t put the ball in the hole on the last day.”
NU broke loose with four straight possessions, but it was too late. Nebraska led by 12, 63-51, with less than three minutes remaining. The visitors then extended their lead to 16 – their largest of the day – and made eight of their last 10 shots, getting their first win of the season over five power opponents.
Tanner Groves led Oklahoma (4-1) with 17 points while Jacob Groves finished with 16. Oklahoma shot 50.9% (29-for-57) from the floor, the highest percentage NU has allowed this season.
Bandoumel finished with 13 tackles, Gary NU with 16. Bandoumel also led NU with five assists while Griesel (8) and Gary combined for 7 rebounds. Out rebounded Nebraska, 35-23. Nebraska (3-2) will face either Memphis or Seton Hall on Friday and close out the Events Invitational on Sunday.
“We’ve got to let it go. We can’t dwell on this one,” Hoiberg said. “Hopefully we can hit some shots tomorrow and feel good about ourselves in this game tomorrow. But you have a short memory in things like this when you let it go for the first time. We’ll let it go tomorrow with a lot of hard work.