Nebraska got everything it could handle from in-state foe Nebraska-Omaha on Sunday afternoon, but in the end the Huskers were able to accomplish the only thing that really matters during the early portion of its non-conference schedule - get a win.
Senior guard Dylan Talley scored a career-high 22 points while senior center Andre Almeida had his best game of the season with 19 points and seven rebounds to lead NU (3-0) to a 75-62 victory over the Mavericks.
The game was much closer than most would have expected, as UNO (1-4) led for much of the first half and even went up two early in second half. It wasn't until Nebraska closed the day with a 32-16 run that it was finally able to put the win away.
"I credit UNO. I thought they did a really good job of being on the attack," head coach Tim Miles said. "I don't know what our mindset is - that doesn't matter. They were the better executing team. They were the aggressor. I tell our guys all the time, the aggressor always wins, and there was no doubt that we let them get downhill on us. They were on the attack, and it took us a long time to solve that problem."
It was a sluggish first half for Nebraska from the opening tip until the halftime buzzer, as the Huskers were arguably lucky to go into the second half with a 36-34 lead considering the way they played for the bulk of the half.
After a basket by UNO guard Justin Simmons that put the Mavericks up 9-8 with 13:45 to go, Nebraska wouldn't end up reclaiming the lead until a jumper by sophomore David Rivers with 5:39 left before halftime.
Even then, the most NU would go up was four points, as Omaha native C.J. Carter knocked down a pair of free throws with 51 seconds left to cut the lead to 36-34 at the end of the half. Maybe the biggest stat of the first 20 minutes came from beyond the arc, as the Mavericks shot 4-of-7 (57 percent) from 3-point range while the Huskers were a dismal 2-of-12 (17 percent).
Simmons scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the first half for UNO, while senior forward Brandon Ubel and Almeida both had nine for Nebraska.
"I think we came out a little sloppy," Almeida said. "I think Omaha came with the intention to kick our butt, so we've got to give them credit for that. You've just got to find a way to win the game and protect your home court."
Nebraska's struggles continued on after halftime, and UNO was eventually able to take its first and only lead of the second half on a basket by Omaha native Koang Doluony to make it 46-44 with 15:46 remaining.
At that point, though, the Huskers' size and physicality took over. Behind 10 points from Talley and Almeida, Nebraska responded with a 14-2 run and jumped back up 58-48 with just under nine minutes to go.
That run eventually turned into a 15-point lead for NU with just two minutes left, and from there it was merely a matter of running out the clock and getting out of the Devaney Center with its third win in a row.
Ubel and senior guard Ray Gallegos both ended the day with 11 points and seven rebounds, though Gallegos shot just 4-of-16 from the field and 2-of-11 from 3. As a team, NU was a miserable 3-of-22 from the outside, while the Mavericks were 8-of-13.
Alex Welhouse finished with 14 points for UNO, including going 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
More importantly than anything for the Huskers is they got the win on Sunday, as those will only get harder to come by as the season roles along.
"You can't underestimate any team," Talley said. "I mean, it's not like North Carolina where we just step on the court and beat people just by showing up. We've got to bring the fight to people every game. They brought the fight to us this game, so that's just a credit to them."
The Huskers will return to action on Wednesday when they play host to Tulane at 7 p.m. CT.
Around the rim
***Nebraska out-scored UNO 46-14 in the paint, 23-13 on points off turnovers and 24-6 on second-chance points. The Huskers' 16 offensive rebounds were their most since hauling in 17 against Alcorn State last December.
***Along with his career-high 22 points, bettering his previous high of 18 last year against Oregon, Talley had four assists and five rebounds. Talley also played a team-high 38 minutes, the second straight game he has set a personal best in minutes.
He also scored 14 of his 22 points in the second half.
"I thought he was pretty good at the end of the first half," Miles said. "He took a whole bunch of 3s early, and then he kind of decided, 'Listen, we're not losing this game. I'm going to get to the rim.' He made a couple mistakes late in the first half, but he was still there. We don't have anybody that gets us to the rim, and so at least somebody was getting in there."
***Almeida's season-high 19 points came on 9-of-11 shooting from the floor and were just one point shy of tying his career high of 20. He also tied his career high with seven rebounds.
"I thought Andre was obviously a dominant force," Miles said. "There was nobody with his size, and I thought he kept his composure. He didn't get frustrated or down on himself if things didn't go well, and it went right a lot of times."
***With Ubel and Gallegos both scoring 11 points, it marked the first time in either player's career that they have scored in double figures in three straight games.
***Miles praised the play of UNO's Simmons, who ended the day 8-of-13 from the field and 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
"He did a really good job," Miles said. "I have to credit him. I'd seen some of his athleticism on tape. I hadn't seen the array of jump shots - whether it be the high floater, the bank in, whatever. He did a great job, and when a guy gets in a rhythm like that, you've got to get him out of rhythm… When a kid like that comes in and changes your own game plan, he's quite a weapon."