January 31, 2009

Huskers finally pull out victory, 82-69 over Tech

In a game that arguably should have been a blowout on two separate occasions, Nebraska was able to hold off a furious rally late in the game and pull off an 82-69 win over Texas Tech Saturday night in Lubbock, Texas.

After leading by as many as 18 points late in the second half, the Huskers watched as the Red Raiders battled back to come within five points with just over three minutes remaining in the game. However, good ball control and stingy defense down the stretch helped NU hold on just long enough to improve to 13-7 overall and 3-4 in the Big 12 Conference.

Senior guard Ade Dagunduro led the way with a game-high 20 points, while sophomore point guard Cookie Miller had maybe the biggest impact on the game with 19 points and five steals.

"I thought for the last three ball games and now the fourth ball game, they've given everything they can give us, and it's good that we finally got the victory," NU head coach Doc Sadler said during his post-game radio show.

Nebraska shot out of the gates to open the game, as the started off with a 6-0 lead and eventually built a 23-6 advantage with 8:41 left in the half on a breakaway alley-oop from Miller to junior guard Sek Henry.

While Nebraska was hitting almost on all cylinders early on, things couldn't be any different for the Red Raiders. Along with committing 10 turnovers in the first half alone, Tech shot just 34 percent from the field and didn't break the 10-point mark until 7:27 left in the half.

As it's been the case with the Huskers on numerous occasions this season, though, their hot streak soon went cold, and the Red Raiders were able to climb back with a 20-6 run and pull within 29-24 with just over two minutes to go.

The Huskers were able to get somewhat back on track before halftime, as they ended the first half with a 34-27 lead.

Just as it did to open the game, Nebraska started the second half out hot and jumped back and bolstered its lead back up to 56-39.

The game stayed in Nebraska's control until the 9:39 mark, when guard Alan Voskuil was called for a foul on a loose ball when it appeared he was thrown to the ground by NU forward Chris Balham.

Tech head coach Pat Knight was apparently so infuriated with the call that he stormed the court and began screaming obscenities at the officials. As could be expected, Knight was hit with two technical fouls and subsequently ejected from the game for his blowup.

As outrageous as the incident may have seemed, the case can be made that it helped light a spark for the Red Raiders, as they eventually battled back from a 62-44 deficit - their largest of the game - with roughly nine minutes to play and cut the Huskers lead to 70-65 with 3:22 remaining.

With the Tech crowd back in the game and the Red Raiders totally reenergized, Nebraska was able to keep its cool and run down the game and shot clocks on each possession. Leading 75-69, Miller, Dagunduro and Henry combined for seven free throws with in final minute to seal the victory for NU and give the game its final score, 82-69.

"We didn't panic," Sadler said. "I thought the guys showed tremendous poise, especially with a team that maybe has played well for the first 36 minutes the last three or four games and didn't get the victory. They stayed composed and they made shots and they made free throws in the last few minutes and helped us get the win."

The Huskers will look to continue their winning ways when they hit the road again to take on Colorado on Wednesday night, with tip-off set for 9:30 p.m. CST.

"More than anything, it makes me feel good about our team, because it's a team that has just been fighting for everything and just didn't have anything to show for it," Sadler said. "Now, we've got a chance to maybe get a second wind, and it's a road victory, and that's huge after losing two home games. We've got to come back now and enjoy it tomorrow, but then come back and get ready to go to Colorado on Wednesday."

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