It took an entire half to finally do, but Nebraska was eventually able to put away Savannah State 68-48 Wednesday night in its final non-conference game of the season and bump its winning streak up to 10 games in a row.
Sophomore center Jorge Brian Diaz scored all of his team-high 13 points in the second half, as the Huskers (12-2 overall) overcame a brutal offensive performance in the first half to come away with the 20-point win over the Tigers (2-16).
The 10 straight wins tie for NU's longest streak since the 1994-95 season, and at 12-2, the Huskers head into Saturday's Big 12 Conference opener against Iowa State holding their best record after 14 games since 1993-94.
"At 12-2, I mean, I'm very, very happy with that," Sadler said. "I think our team has got some confidence going into league play. I think they also for the most part understand that it's fixin' to change. We've got to be ready for every minute of the ball game.
"The mistakes that we made tonight get you beat on Saturday, and we've got to understand that we don't have the luxury of being up double-digits very many times over these next 16 ball games."
To call the first half performances by either team "ugly" would be putting it nicely, as both teams struggled to do much of anything on the offensive end.
In fact, it took all the way until sophomore forward Brandon Ubel hit a pair of free throws to give Nebraska a 10-9 lead with 10:20 left in the first half that one team finally scored double digits.
It wasn't until junior center Andre Almeida checked into the game midway through the half that NU finally got a scoring spark, as he scored six straight points and threw back one huge blocked shot to put NU up by its largest lead of half at 16-11.
However, Savannah State came right back with a 9-1 run to put the Tigers back up 20-17 with 4:51 to go. During that stretch, the Huskers failed to score a field goal for 5 minutes, 16 seconds.
Nebraska was able to close out the first half with some momentum with a 6-0 run, but its 23-20 halftime lead over a team that ranked 332nd out of 336 teams nationally in scoring offense was hardly anything to get excited about.
"I the first half, I think you've got to give Savannah State credit for just completely controlling both ends of the floor tempo-wise," head coach Doc Sadler said. "I think their control on the offensive end carried over to our standing around on the offensive end for ourselves. We didn't have any pace either way."
Needing to get off to a quick start to open the second half, the Huskers turned to Diaz to carry the load. The Puerto Rico native scored eight of NU's next 10 points to start the half, and the Huskers ended up going on a 22-6 run that made it 45-26 with 11:56 to play and finally put them in cruise control the rest of the way.
Nebraska led by as many as 23 points and no fewer than 15 in the final 10 minutes of the game. Almeida finished with eight points on 4-of-4 shooting to go along with a career-high five blocks, while junior guard Kamyron Brown added nine points.
The Huskers return to action on Saturday night when they play host to Iowa State at 7 p.m. to open Big 12 play.
"We set a goal, and we did that goal: we won every home game after that Puerto Rico trip," senior guard Lance Jeter said. "We're definitely in a good position where we control what we want to do. It's about Saturday now. It's big time now. This is league play. This is all that matters."
Around the rim
***A total of 14 players saw minutes for Nebraska on Wednesday with 12 of them scoring points. When Big 12 play opens up, however, Sadler said he expects the Huskers' rotation to reduce drastically.
"I think the four inside guys are pretty much set," Sadler said. "Now it's going to be whoever's on that perimeter, and it can be not necessarily the guys that have been starting. The perimeter is where it's going to get narrowed down. We've got some guys that's just not going to get any minutes. If they get on a hot run, then we'll go ride those guys. But you're going to see the bench get tightened down a little bit."
***For those keeping track, Nebraska's 10-game winning streak is now only four shy of tying the school record of 14 set back in 1990-91, when the Huskers opened up the season 16-1.
***After hitting 25-of-45 shots from the field on Wednesday, Nebraska has now shot better than 50 percent in its past five games, the longest such streak since doing it six games in a row back in 2000-01.
***On the other end, the Huskers have held their last four opponents under 50 total points.
***Almeida is now averaging 9.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.0 blocks over his last three games.