Huskers fight past South Dakota for 76-69 victory
It was hardly a work of art, but Nebraska used a full-team effort to hold off a feisty South Dakota squad for a 76-69 victory on Tuesday night.
Led by 23 points from Teddy Allen, the Huskers overcame a choppy first half and shot 44.1 percent from the field after halftime, with five total players scoring in double figures.
Stanley Umude, who finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and the Coyotes gave NU all it could ask for, but a 12-0 run in the second half broke the game open and improved the Huskers to 3-1 on the year.
The first half was a battle of attrition from the opening tip, as whistles filled the arena to the tune of 21 fouls in the first 20 minutes, including two technical fouls after just 2:33 of play.
Nebraska and South Dakota traded five-point leads before the Huskers closed the half with five unanswered and held USD to just one made field goal over the final 3:20 to go into halftime up 36-29.
Trey McGowens had nine of his 13 points, and Lat Mayen scored six with six rebounds to lead NU at the break. But Nebraska was called for 11 fouls and tied its season-high with 10 turnovers to help keep the Coyotes in reach.
Needing a spark, Allen provided it and then some by scoring nine of NU’s first 12 points of the second half. A floater by Dalano Banton capped a 12-0 run that made it 57-43 with 9:40 left in the game.
Allen hit a jumper with 6:01 remaining to give the Huskers their largest lead of the night at 67-49, but South Dakota kept pushing until the final horn and trimmed the final margin to seven.
Banton stuffed the stat sheet again with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Shamiel Stevenson and Kobe Webster both chipped in 11 points, as NU got a season-high 24 points from its bench in the win.
Mayen finished with six points, 12 rebounds, and four assists while playing 31 minutes primarily at the five.
Former Husker Brady Heiman started at center for the Coyotes and had two points, two assists, two blocks, and two steals in 15 minutes.
Nebraska will return to action on Sunday when it plays host to Florida A&M for a 1 p.m. CT tip on Big Ten Network.
1. The energy wasn’t there, but Nebraska found a way
The game starting with whistle after whistle certainly played a part, but it was also clear that South Dakota opened the game with far more fire than Nebraska tonight.
To be fair, the Huskers were playing their fourth game in seven days, but head coach Fred Hoiberg said he thought his team was more mentally fatigued than it was physically.
Rather than make the “simple plays” on offense, NU tried to force the issue by driving through defenders. That led to five charges, six offensive fouls, and 10 turnovers in the first half.
The ball movement wasn't nearly where it needed to be, as Nebraska had a season-low 10 assists on 24 made baskets. “That’s not us,” Hoiberg said.
There were plenty of excuses the Huskers could have used for being, as Hoiberg put it, “a little bit fried” against South Dakota. But the reality is they’re going to have to play through those types of mental and physical grinds more often than not come the start of Big Ten play.
The good news is NU got to learn that lesson in a win.
2. Shamiel Stevenson was the MVP
Hoiberg said not once but twice that Stevenson was the game’s Most Valuable Player in his mind because of the impact the junior had off the bench defensively.
Umude, the preseason Summit League Player of the Year, was having his way against the Huskers and scored 18 points in the game’s first 25 minutes.
Hoiberg made the switch to put Stevenson on Umude from that point on, and the results were instant. Umude did not make a field goal for the final 13:56 and scored just five more points from the free-throw line.
After that move, Nebraska turned a 48-43 lead into its biggest advantage of the night on a 19-8 run over the next 7:29.
3. The rebounding was much better
South Dakota’s frontcourt was hardly the type of challenge Nebraska will face later on this season. But after getting completely dominated on the boards the past two games, Tuesday night was a notable improvement.
The Huskers ended up with a 46-38 rebounding advantage and an 11-10 edge on the offensive glass. They also only gave up six second-chance points and led 24-18 in points in the paint.
A lot of credit goes to Mayen, who has had to play far more center than planned due to the absences of Derrick Walker (suspension) and Eduardo Andre (COVID-19).
The 6-foot-9 junior responded Tuesday night by hauling in a career-high 12 boards (four offensive) for the first double-figure rebounding effort of his DI career. His previous best at TCU was six rebounds.
Getting Walker and Andre back in the fold will provide a needed boost in the post, but a showing like that was a big difference in the game for Nebraska tonight.