You could call Nebraska's 96-90 loss to UMass in the first round of the Charleston Classic on Thursday a lot of things, and most of it would be pretty accurate.
Ugly. Inconsistent. Sloppy. Overly officiated. Frustrating. Disappointing.
However you choose to describe it, the Huskers (3-1) were nonetheless handed their first defeat of the season in a game dominated by fouls, free throws and overall poor defensive play in the paint by NU.
When all was said and done, there were a combined 61 fouls called and 82 free throws shot, as the officials couldn't seem to go more than one possession without blowing a whistle. The difference on the day was UMass's ability to score in the lane, especially in the second half, as the Minutemen (4-0) scored 32 in points in the paint and rebounded 17 of their 30 missed shots.
Sophomore forward Terran Petteway did his part with a career-high 28 points before fouling out midway through the second half, but the Huskers simply couldn't make the big plays down the stretch or overcome game-long foul trouble to pull off the win.
"If you look at it, the exact reasons why we lost the game were our inability to guard their Pepperdine actions, the quick switch, their quickness driving and their strength driving the ball," head coach Tim Miles said during his post-game radio show on the Husker Sports Network.
"That led to a breakdown in rebounding. Then with the foul trouble, we couldn't get big enough to handle the boards. We never got rebounding under control, and they got half of their misses. That's a terrible defensive rebounding percentage."
A sloppy start to the game saw Nebraska fall behind 11-3 right out of the gates, as UMass's domination on the offensive glass caused the Huskers problems from the opening tip.
Nebraska was able to eventually claw its way back in it with a 7-0 and later reclaimed its first lead since the game's first basket on an And-1 jumper by freshman Tai Webster to make it 19-18 with 10:47 to go.
The pendulum of momentum then swung back in UMass's favor again, as the Minutemen matched their biggest lead of the half with a pair of free throws by Maxie Esho that moved the score to 32-24 with just under six minutes left in the half.
Needing someone to step up and get back in the game, Petteway took things into his own hands and reeled off eight straight points, then hit two free throws to reclaim the lead for NU at 37-36 with 2:21 left before half.
The Minutemen got the last laugh, though, as they ended the half with a 6-2 run and made it 42-39 going into halftime after Mike Peltz was called for an over-the-back with just 4.2 seconds remaining to send UMass to the line for an easy pair of free throws to add to its lead.
Petteway ended the half with 17 points while going a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe, but UMass's nine offensive rebounds and 13 free throws were the difference through the first 20 minutes.
"It was embarrassing to me, because at the end of the day, we've got to rim protect," Miles said. "Unfortunately it falls on Walter (Pitchford), it falls on Leslee (Smith), but it's not just those guys. It's everybody."
The second half didn't start out any better for Nebraska, as UMass quickly jumped back up to its largest lead yet at 60-49 five minutes into the half. The Huskers were able to chip away and cut the deficit to 70-65 after a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Walter Pitchford.
Being the game it was, though, Pitchford then fouled out on the ensuing defensive possession, and UMass went on to reel off eight straight points to take its largest lead of the game at 78-65 with 9:30 remaining.
Trailing by eight with 3:30 left on the clock, Nebraska was able to overcome serious foul trouble and make one final push with a 7-1 run that was capped off by a pair of free throws by freshman point guard Tai Webster that made it 89-87with 1:39 to play.
The Huskers had to critical moments in the final minute that could have changed the game, but were unable to capitalize on either. The first game after Webster missed the second of two free throws down 91-88 with 1:15 left, but junior David Rivers came up with the offensive rebound with a chance for NU to tie.
Rivers was hit with an offensive foul call though while trying to go to the basket, and UMass converted that into with two free throws to make it a five-point game with 55 seconds to go.
A layup by Webster cut it to 93-90 with 28.3 seconds left, and Webster then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and found Rivers under the basket. Rivers was unable to convert a chip-shot layup that would have made it one-point game, though, and UMass got the rebound and again converted two free throws after a foul.
Nebraska's last chance came on missed 3-pointer by sophomore forward Shavon Shields coming out of a timeout with 7.6 seconds left, and that was all she wrote.
Junior forward Leslee Smith, posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds along with three blocks, while Webster and Rivers both ended with 12 points as well in the loss. Shields followed up with 10 points and six boards, as guard Derrick Gordon led UMass with 20 points.
With the loss, Nebraska moves to the consolation bracket of the tournament, where it will face the loser of New Mexico/Alabama-Birmingham on Friday at 11 a.m. CT.
"The thing about an event like this is, you don't have to win the event to get into the NCAA Tournament, but you've got to win some games," Miles said. "We're going to have high-quality games against whoever we play, and we just have to be ready to compete.
"New Mexico we know is really good. UAB is picked high in Conference USA, they've got a veteran group too. We've got to find a way to bounce back. It's so important to get your bearings about you and get past the disappointment, be a resilient team. Let today's sins be forgiven. Go out and try and find a way to be affective tomorrow."
Around the rim
***After scoring the game's first basket, senior guard Ray Gallegos did not score again in 22 minutes of action. Gallegos missed much of the second half after getting injured while going for a loose ball.
***Miles was asked after the game about the ridiculous number of fouls called in the, and while he did his best to remain diplomatic, he said something needed to be done to avoid more games like this from happening in the future.
"Well, without getting in trouble, I wasn't especially pleased with the way the game was," Miles said. I can't remember being on a team that had 34 fouls before. We had seven guys with two fouls at halftime. But, we have to adjust. At the end of the day, we have to adjust.
"I think we're going to have to look at some of those rules, because if that's the way the game's going to be called, we need to look at a whole bunch of things. Do we move up the bonus? Do we move up the personal fouls to six? Do we call fouls for flopping? If this is what the game's evolving to, these are things we have to consider."