Nebraska looked like it started Christmas break a bit early Saturday night, slogging through an ugly first 32 minutes against The Citadel, which came into the game 4-8 overall. But the NU offense awoke late as the Huskers went on a 18-6 run over the game's final 7:58 to secure a 77-62 victory in their final nonconference home game of the season.
Terran Petteway led the way with 27 points, Shavon Shields chipped in 17 and Leslee Smith provided his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"They came out very aggressive," Petteway said. "My hat goes off to them and their coaching staff. They were prepared to play us. We came out flat and they didn't They were aggressive in the first half, we ended up changing that in the second half and that's how we took the lead."
Part of the reason Nebraska started so slowly was the Bulldogs' multiple defenses. The Citadel shifted between man and a number of zone defenses, including some that the Huskers hadn't seen on film, that knocked NU off its game early on. Nebraska missed its first five shots and shot just 41.7 percent in the opening half.
"It kind of messed with us a little bit as you saw, same as in the Creighton game," Petteway said. "They kind of got us hesitant. That's something we've got to work on, and I think Coach Miles will get us ready for that. More teams are going to do that to us."
The teams went into the half tied at 32, and Tim Miles' message was a simple one - get the ball to the basket. His words hit the mark, as Nebraska's first four possessions in the second half resulted in a trio of layups and an and-one dunk by Walter Pitchford. The Huskers outscored the Bulldogs 36-16 in the paint overall.
"'Love the rim' came out of my mouth at halftime, and there was a few expletives included unfortunately," Miles said with a smile. "I apologize Mom, but we always go to confession before Christmas so I'll be fine… It wasn't a lost day. It was a meaningful day and a learning experience."
The Huskers' defense also woke up over the final eight minutes, as The Citadel made just one of their final 10 shots and turned the ball over four times. Nebraska capitalized and finally pulled away.
Unfortunately, it was another rough game for freshman point guard Tai Webster. After going scoreless against Arkansas State, Webster didn't score until he connected on a layup with 23 second left in the game. He had just one turnover and three assists, and at one point passed up a wide-open layup to kick out to Shields for a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock.
"I don't think there's any doubt (he's lacking confidence)," Miles said. "Anytime a guy passes up a tomahawk dunk for a contested 3-pointer with three on the shot clock… that'll come with Tai. Our point guard play isn't where I want it to be. We don't shy away from that. We've got to make him better, we've got to make him more comfortable and spend more time with him and get him going. Tai is the kind of kid that likes to rise to the occasion, but he'll learn. I've got a great deal of confidence in him."