BYU came out of the gates with blazing accuracy, hitting 15 of its first 17 shots as the Cougars opened a 37-5 lead in the first period before running by Nebraska 88-66 in the championship game of the HoopTV Las Vegas Classic on Wednesday at the Orleans Arena.
BYU started the game by scoring 16 of the contest’s first 18 points as the Cougars hit 5-of-6 field goal attempts and five free throws in the first 4:29. Jimmer Fredette got the Cougars started with two baskets in the first two minutes and went on to post a game-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting. He helped the Cougars hit 61.2 percent from the floor for the game, including 66.7 percent in the first half.
Brandon Davies came off the bench to add to the hot shooting as he hit 7-of-8 shots from the floor for 16 points. Jackson Emery was the Cougars’ second 20-point scorer, hitting 6-of-9 shots for 23 points and added eight rebounds as BYU held a 35-24 advantage on the glass.
Nebraska showed some fight, as it cut the lead down to 14 points at halftime but could get no closer as the Huskers dropped their third game away from Lincoln this season. The Huskers trailed 37-5 with 9:09 left before the break when they started to show some life. Brandon Richardson’s jumper at the 8:22 mark gave NU a lift and he came back to add a 3-pointer a minute later to cut the deficit to back under 30.
BYU then missed four straight shots from the floor and had five turnovers in a seven-minute span as the Huskers were heating up. NU went on a 20-3 run behind Richardson and Eshaunte Jones, who had six points in the spurt.
The Cougars finally started to hit shots again, extending the lead back out to 19 with 1:06 to play before Brandon Ubel added a nice basket in traffic and Jones connected on a 3-pointer with 28 seconds left to cut it to 49-35 at the intermission.
Jones went on to score a career-high 21 points as he hit 6-of-11 from the floor, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. Twelve of his points came in the second period when he nailed all three of his 3-point tries, helping him to join Richardson on the all-tournament team.
Both teams came out cold from the break, with each team scoring just one basket in the first four minutes in the second half. The Cougars jumped back out to a 20-point lead on Fredette’s basket at the 14:04 mark and went up by as much as 26 again before posting the final margin.
The Huskers hit 52.2 percent from the field in the second half but had 11 of their 14 turnovers after the intermission.
The Cornhuskers will take a couple days off from practice for the holiday and then return to Lincoln on Dec. 26 to start preparations for their Dec. 29 matchup with Southern Utah at the Devaney Center. The Huskers and Thunderbirds will tip off at 7 p.m.