basketball Edit

Nebraska falls flat in 75-64 loss to Georgia Tech

Nebraska’s wheels were wobbling from the opening tip of Wednesday night’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against Georgia Tech.

When it came down to crunch time late in the second half, the Huskers’ tires fell off entirely.

After leading by six points shortly out of halftime, NU was outscored 38-24 over the game’s final 15 minutes in what ended in a 75-64 defeat at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Point guard Jose Alvarado, who played with four fouls for nearly the entire second half, scored 19 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to lead the Yellow Jackets (2-2).

Nebraska (3-2) committed a season-high 16 turnovers that resulted in 15 Tech points. The Jackets shot 50 percent from the field and were 5-of-11 from behind the arc after halftime.

Nebraska turned the ball over a season-high 16 times and was out of sync all night in a 75-64 loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
Nebraska turned the ball over a season-high 16 times and was out of sync all night in a 75-64 loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night. (Huskers.com)

Nebraska sputtered out of the gates to start the game, turning the ball over six times with five unforced giveaways through the first five minutes. Georgia Tech used an 11-3 run to take its first lead of the night midway through the half.

The Huskers would miss 11-of-12 shots and not make a field goal for five minutes during one stretch, yet they only trailed by 25-24 with four minutes to go in the first period. The Yellow Jackets then reeled off seven straight points over the next minute of play to push their lead to eight.

Two 3-pointers by Kobe Webster and Lat Mayen helped calm things down for NU and trimmed the lead down to 32-30 going into halftime.

Nebraska shot just 35 percent from the field and turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, marking their second-highest turnover total of the season through just 20 minutes.

As choppy as things were to start, the Huskers came out dialed in to open the second half. Teddy Allen scored eight of NU’s first 10 points, and the defense held Georgia Tech to two points in the first five minutes to reclaim the lead at 40-34.

Once again, the fast start eventually faded, and the Jackets slowly chipped away and took a 57-52 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Alvarado with 6:21 to play. That would soon turn into a 16-4 Tech run that increased the deficit to 67-56 on a three by Moses Wright with 3:21 left.

It was all semantics from there, as the Huskers never got back within nine points the rest of the way.

Webster ended up scoring a season-high 20 points off the bench on 6-of-7 shooting from behind the arc. Dalano Banton filled the stat sheet again with 17 points, nine rebounds, and six assists, but he also committed a season-high five turnovers.

Allen finished with 10 points but did so on just 4-of-16 shooting. Tech big man Moses Wright, who came into the game leading the ACC in scoring, had 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two blocks.

Nebraska will have to turn the page quickly, as its annual in-state rivalry game vs. No. 8 Creighton awaits on Friday in Omaha. Tip-off for that contest is set for 6 p.m. CT and will be televised on Big Ten Network.

3-POINT PLAY

1. The focus just wasn’t there

Nebraska hardly played its best basketball all night, yet it was somehow still leading by one with seven minutes remaining.

Then, after some costly turnovers, failing to box out of two defensive rebounds, and poor perimeter closeouts, the Huskers let Georgia Tech blow the game open with a 15-5 run over the next five minutes.

That stretch embodied a night in which NU just seemed off in all phases. Things were clicking at times, especially the 16-5 run it went on over the end of the first half and the beginning of the second to turn an eight-point deficit into a six-point lead.

But whenever it looked like Nebraska had snapped out of it, breakdowns on both ends of the floor would keep the Yellow Jackets in the game. Eventually, that lack of focus became too much to overcome.

Head coach Fred Hoiberg said this was the first time he’d seen his team fail to handle adversity this season. He said he saw the Huskers “splinter a little bit” and “separate” when things didn’t go their way rather than stay locked in and continue to fight.

That’s the first red flag of what could become a very concerning issue for Nebraska. In less than 48 hours, NU will travel up to Omaha to play a rivalry game against a top-10 Creighton team that just lost a heartbreaker at No. 5 Kansas.

The Huskers can’t sit back and feel sorry for themselves, or else meltdowns like Wednesday night could become the norm.

2. Georgia Tech’s defense controlled the game

Georgia Tech has become known for its play defensively under head coach Josh Pastner, mainly because of its creative 1-3-1 zone base scheme.

Hoiberg said the Yellow Jackets used that 1-3-1 for about 80-85 percent of their win over Kentucky last time out, and Nebraska spent plenty of practice time preparing for that look.

But while the zone was used early and often, Georgia Tech mixed in some man-to-man defense that Hoiberg said maybe gave NU even more problems.

Regardless of what defense Tech used, its overall team length, active hands, and aggressive on-ball guarding gave the Huskers fits all night.

Yes, Webster was able to bail NU out by going 6-of-7 from 3-point range. But the rest of the team finished just 2-of-16 from behind the arc.

The ball movement in the half-court wasn’t nearly good enough, and the numerous “careless” passes and lack of communication led to a season-high 16 turnovers. Nebraska has now committed 31 turnovers in its past two games.

3. Lat Mayen needs a bigger role

With all of the talk about Georgia Tech’s vaunted zone, the immediate question should be why Mayen – arguably Nebraska’s best 3-point shooter – only attempted five shots and three threes on Wednesday night?

Part of that answer was due to the 6-foot-9 junior having to play more of the five than planned right now with the absences of Derrick Walker (suspension) and Eduardo Andre (COVID).

But with the Huskers struggling to find someone besides Webster to step up and knock down perimeter shots to open up the zone, Mayen was nowhere to be found.

An early technical foul led to Mayen only playing 11 minutes in the first half, but he still only attempted two shots in 15 minutes in the second half.

Hoiberg admitted after the game that the Huskers “have to find ways to get him open,” and he’s 100-percent right.

THEY SAID IT

“They were bothered by it. That was a dejected locker room… It was disappointment in there. But we have to try and lift their spirits and hopefully come out and play a complete game on Friday. We’re going to have to.”
— Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg