Nebraska may have had to work a little harder than it initially planned, but it was still able to pass its first big road test of the season Monday night at Southern California.
The Huskers (2-0) had to play two overtimes with the Trojans (1-1) before finally walking away with a hard-earned 64-61 victory. Senior point guard Bo Spencer came up big all night for NU, especially down the stretch, finishing with a game-high 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
After a slow first half by both teams, Nebraska got on a bit of a run early in the second half. Spencer scored five straight points to put NU up 36-31 on a 3-pointer with 14 minutes to go. At that point, Spencer had 15 of the Huskers' 36 points in the game.
That momentum didn't last long, as USC came right back with guard Maurice Jones leading the charge. Jones scored seven straight points to spark a 15-4 run by the Trojans, which gave them their first lead since early in the second half. Jones ended with a team-high 18 points.
A lay-up by Diaz cut the deficit to 49-47 with 2:27 left in regulation, and the Huskers eventually tied it up on a pair of free throws by senior guard Toney McCray with 58.9 remaining.
Jones missed a 3-pointer on USC's next possession with 27 seconds left, but the Trojans were able to scrap for the offensive rebound to get the ball back for the final possession of the second half. Despite getting a perfect wide-open shot for Dedmon at the free throw line, he couldn't convert and sent the game into overtime.
Offense was harder than ever to come by in the extra period, but Nebraska again found itself with a chance to win in the final minute after Spencer tied it at 52-52 when he bounced in a 3 for the Huskers' first points of overtime with 40.5 seconds on the clock.
It looked like luck was on the Trojans' side in the waning seconds, though, as Jones made an improbable shot to put USC back up 54-52 with 6.5 seconds left on the clock. After dribbling around the perimeter, Jones drove left and threw up a crazy double-pump shot that banked in off the glass.
As it turned out, Nebraska had a bit of its own luck as well. Needing to get the ball down court and get a shot off in a hurry, McCray was fouled on a call that could have gone either way and went to the free throw line with a chance to tie it with 2.8 second to go.
McCray hit them both, and a last-second heave by Jones hit off the rim to send the game into a second overtime.
Finally, Nebraska took charge and never looked back. The Huskers used an 8-0 run early in the second overtime to take a 62-56 lead with 1:18 to play. The game seemed in control at that point, but the Trojans weren't going down quietly, scoring five straight points and cutting it to 62-61 on a dunk by Dewayne Dedmon with 9.0 seconds left.
That would be as close as USC would get, though, as Spencer hit two clutch free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining to bump the lead back up to three, and a desperation 3 by Jones again fell off the mark as the final buzzer sounded.
Senior guard Brandon Richardson, a Los Angeles native who had roughly 100 family and friends in attendance, finished with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Junior center Jorge Brian Diaz added 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
The Huskers won't return to action until Sunday when they play host to Rhode Island, with tip-off set for 1 p.m. CT.