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November 8, 2013

Huskers roll in opener, rout FGCU 79-55

Terran Petteway banked in a 3-pointer 15 seconds into the game and Nebraska never trailed as the Huskers opened the Pinnacle Bank Arena with a convincing 79-55 win over Florida Gulf Coast Friday.

Florida Gulf Coast, which reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in March, looked nothing like "Dunk City" Friday, failing to attempt a dunk in a first half that saw Nebraska driving and slashing to the rim to score easy baskets and build a 18 point late in the period.

"I don't know if I'm shocked," said Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley. "We have a long way to go. The success last year was amazing. But no one cares. Do you think Nebraska cares? They don't care. They showed up and punched us right in the head."

The Eagles didn't have any second half dunks and fell behind by 20 just over four minutes into the period.

Nebraska coach Tim Miles repeatedly used the word 'sound' to describe the Husker's impressive performance. Nebraska finished the game by hitting more than 50 percent of its shots and never gave up more than six points in a row during the contest.

"I thought our guys were sound defensively," said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. We didn't turn the ball over. We made some shots. We got lucky and banked one in. Then we get some good shots and make them. I thought we were just sound. We haven't always shown that in practice. We probably played better than we had practiced consistently."

Shavon Shields, who led the Huskers with 28 points had a pair of words that he said were key to the win.

"I think I said 'lock in' about a million times before we got on the floor," Shields said. "That was pretty much the main thing. We had to lock in, stay focused, get stops and have good offensive possessions in order to win. I think we did that."

The Huskers took control of the game with a 15-4 run that included the arena's first dunk from Shields, another slam by David Rivers and ended with an up-and-under Shields layup that made the score 33-17 with 5:06 left.

Nebraska's biggest first half lead came at 39-21 on a Leslee Smith free throw with 1:40 left. Then a FGC zone stymied the Husker offense and Eagles closed the half on a 6-0 run.

Nebraska hit 58 percent of its first half shots and shot 67 percent from 3-point range. FGC hit just 36 percent of its shots, 38 percent from 3.

Nebraska kept up the attack in the second half, building a 55-32 lead on three consecutive fast break layups from Benny Parker and a nice Eurostep move by Petteway.

"He can get the ball and he's a jet and he can get down the floor in like a one-man fast break," Miles said of Parker. "He's one of those few guys that can really get there. If he can give that to us, it's really important."

The Eagles struggled to score against Nebraska's man-to-man defense, at one point going 6 minutes without a basket and frequently turning the ball over and turning the Huskers loose in the open court.

Nebraska went up 30 on back-to-back breakaways by Parker and Shields, who took the ball off a Parker steal and hit the driving layup that made the score 70-40 with 7:38 remaining. Nebraska's biggest lead was 34.

As was expected with an officiating point of emphasis on touch fouls, the second half was foul plagued and saw a march to the free throw lines lead to ragged play. Nebraska made 24 of 31 free throws. FGA hit 11 of 2 from the line.

Pre-game festivities opened the first basketball game at the new Haymarket arena with a Morgan Freeman-narrated video clip shown on the giant scoreboard. Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, who "went to college" at Nebraska in 2004 returned to spin some crowd-baffling dubstep with DJ Aero. The Cornhusker marching band filled the floor to play "Hail Varsity" and pop duo Karmin sang the National Anthem.

"I told our guys. 'listen, there is rock 'n' roll stars out there, I don't know what's going on, lights and fireworks. But you are the show tonight," Miles said. "But you're only the show if you play. You've got to play well, yo've got to play great and you've got do it over and over, every possession over and over and I think they did that. I think they did that. I think they topped everything old Marc Boehm and his group tried to do."

The game, like all Husker contests this season, was officially sold out. But there was a smattering of empty seats throughout the arena and large portions of sections 311-312-313 in the upper bowl unfilled. The reported attendance was 15,119.

Around the rim

***Tonight's crowd of 15,119 is the largest home crowd in school history. The previous high was 15,038 at the Devaney Center against Oklahoma State during the Feb. 7, 1981.

***Shields' 28 points was one off his career high of 29 set at Penn State last year.

***Nebraska's 79 points were its highest total in a season-opener since scoring 80 against Longwood in 2005.

***Nebraska's win tonight marks the first time it has won a debut at its home facility since an 11-8 win over the Lincoln YMCA at Grant Hall is 1897. NU lost its first-ever games at the NU Coliseum (1926) and Bob Devaney Sports Center.

***Tonight's win is Nebraska's 13th consecutive season opening win and Nebraska improved to 79-39 in season openers.

***Petteway 17 points was a career high, including his total from Texas Tech. His high point output as a Red Raider was against DePaul in 2011-12.

***Parker came off the bench for a career-high nine points in 32 minutes. His previous best was eight last season.


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