One of the biggest question marks Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler had about his team this season was how it would respond to being down late in a game for the first time.
With the way the Huskers closed out their 59-49 loss to Vanderbilt in the first round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Thursday is any indication, Sadler obviously wasn't exactly happy with the answer.
After leading by two at halftime, Nebraska (2-1) scored just 21 points in the second half and went without a field goal for the final 7 minutes, 49 seconds of the game to let the Commodores (2-0) slowly chip away and eventually take over in the final minutes.
The Huskers shot 35.3 percent from the field (18-of-51), missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts and went just 13-of-23 from the free throw line. They also ended with 15 turnovers to just eight assists.
"I am disappointed, because defensively I don't know if we could've played much better that what we played," Sadler said on his post-game radio show. "Defensively, I couldn't be much happier."
Nebraska actually controlled the majority of the game and didn't surrender the lead until 5:45 remaining in second half. After a pair of free throws by Caleb Walker gave NU a 46-43 lead, Vanderbilt's John Jenkins hit a 3-pointer to tie it up with 6:23 remaining.
Lance Jeter was called for traveling on the ensuing possession, and Jenkins came through again with another long jumper to give the Commodores their first lead of the second half at 48-46 with 5:45 to play.
A couple minutes later, Jeter made a free throw to bring it back to one possession at 51-48, but Vanderbilt got maybe the shot of the game the next time down the court when forward Steve Tchiengang, who made just five 3's all of last season, drained a 3-pointer with 2:24 to play that put VU back up by four.
From there, it was all Vandy, as it closed out the game on a 15-3 run while Nebraska was unable to capitalize on a number of opportunities from the charity stripe.
"The disappointing thing is we were 0-10 from the 3-point line, so we've got to find some offense," Sadler said. "As I've said before, we missed way too many easy baskets to not be in better shape than we were. Whoever it is, I've got to find somebody that can score some points and hopefully we can get better perimeter play as far as making some shots for us."
Neither team was very crisp to early in the game, but considering the competition Nebraska played arguably its best first half of the season against the Commodores.
After falling behind 12-8 to start the game, the Huskers bounced back with an 8-1 run to take their first lead of the game at 16-13 with a little less than 10 minutes to go in the half. Another 7-2 run a few minutes later put NU up 23-17, but Vanderbilt responded with a 9-3 spurt of its own and eventually tied the game back up at 26-26 with 1:38 remaining.
That score held all the way until the final seconds until senior guard Drake Beranek nailed a jumper from the left wing with two seconds on the clock to send Nebraska into halftime with a 28-26 advantage.
Sophomore forward Brandon Ubel was the only Husker to score in double figures with 10 points, while Puerto Rico native Jorge Brian Diaz added eight points and eight rebounds.
Jenkins led the way for Vandy with a game-high 22 points and Jeffery Taylor finished with 14 points.
The Huskers will take on Davidson, which lost to West Virginia on Thursday, in the consolation bracket on Friday, with tip-off set for 2 p.m. CT.
"After the game, I just talked about a few things that we had talked about going into the game, and did we do what we wanted to do," Sadler said. "Obviously one of the things that we talked about, and we talked about it during the game, is we've got to quit fouling. We've got to quit putting these guys at the free throw line and giving them free points.
"You can't make those kind of mental mistakes, but at the same time, like I told (the players), guys, (2 p.m.) tomorrow, in less than 24 hours, we turn around and we play another game."