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December 2, 2009Eshaunte Jones's last-second 3-pointer to beat Southern Cal on Sunday was far from the first game-winning shot he'd ever made throughout his basketball career.
For the moment, though, it was as big of a shot as he's ever hit.
After sitting out nearly his entire first season on campus with a foot injury last year, Jones has been working to overcome the setback and return to the promising form he showed in the few chances he got before redshirting in 2008-09.
By draining that 3-pointer with 11.7 seconds left in the game to give Nebraska a much-needed 51-48 road win, Jones not only gave the Huskers a confidence boost as a team, but also helped him take a huge step as player.
"It was big," Jones said. "It was a big confidence booster just from the inside, you know. That really helped me just being a player. But the win was two times better than that shot. I was just glad that we could get the W in Los Angeles on the road. That was just a huge win for us."
When Nebraska takes the Devaney Center floor tonight against Texas-Pan American at 7 p.m., it will likely be just the 10th collegiate game Jones will have played in. Before opting to redshirt four games into last season, Jones tried to play through the pain, but it clearly wasn't working.
With nearly a full year to recover, Jones said both his foot and his game are back to where they should be at this point in his career.
"I think I'm back to where I need to be now," he said. "I know I've got a lot of stuff still I've got to work on like defense and stuff like that. If I keep working on that, hopefully I can contribute to this team for more wins."
Going back to back to Jones's shot to beat the Trojans, his teammates say the shot was just as big of a confidence boost for them as it was for Jones.
Senior Ryan Anderson, who told Jones to go to the corner prior to the play, said the fact that the Huskers could execute a play like that under pressure in a road environment shows how much they've grown as a team, even in the span of less than two weeks.
Compared to Nebraska's 69-55 loss at Saint Louis on Nov. 18, Anderson said the Huskers showed far more poise and focus on Sunday than they had all season.
"I think that shot showed that we can execute under pressure," Anderson said. "Even defensively, we got a couple key stops, especially their last shot attempt when they tried to get up a desperation shot. We were all over it. I think that showed a lot of character in our guys."
While his game-winning shot will probably be one he won't soon forget, Jones said he took the most pleasure of all simply from being able to help his team get a win. If the Huskers keep playing the way they did Sunday, there should be plenty more wins for them down the road.
"The win was way more important than the shot," Jones said. "The win was huge for us. Since we lost on the road to Saint Louis, we told ourselves that (USC) was a big one for us, and we went out L.A. and we got the win."