The Nebraska men’s basketball team put up a valiant defensive effort and got a huge performance from its bench, but it wasn’t enough as the 24th-ranked Baylor Bears held off the Huskers, 55-53, Wednesday night at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
NU led 53-52 with under a minute to play, but Baylor center Ekpe Udoh hit a jumper in the lane with just under 26 seconds left to give Baylor a 54-53 lead. After NU’s Lance Jeter misfired on a 3-pointer, Quincy Acy extended the Bears’ lead to 55-53 with a free throw with nine seconds left. Jeter and Brandon Richardson also each had a look at a 3-pointer in the final 12 seconds, but Acy rejected Jeter’s final shot – one of Baylor’s nine blocked shots on the night – sending the Huskers to their third straight loss and second straight at home.
With the win, Baylor improved to 5-4 in Big 12 play and 18-5 overall. The 53 points was a season-low for Baylor, which came into the game averaging 78.6 points per game in conference play, good for third in the Big 12. NU dropped to 1-8 in Big 12 play, and 13-11 overall. Myles Holley led NU with a career-high 11 points, and Eshaunte Jones and Richardson each had 10 points each, all part of a 37-point effort by Nebraska’s bench. LaceDarius Dunn led all scorers with 19 points.
Baylor jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the game, but NU responded with a 20-10 spurt over the next 10:55 to grab a 20-15 advantage, capped by Holley’s second emphatic dunk of the half. The teams traded baskets and NU went into the locker room with a four-point cushion, 27-23.
The Huskers went deep into the bench in the first half. Eleven Huskers saw playing time in the opening period, with 10 playing six minutes or more. The move paid off, as NU outscored the Bears 17-4 in bench points in the first half. Holley sparked the Big Red with six points, while Jones added five.
NU committed a season-low one turnover in the first half, which came on an offensive foul by Ryan Anderson. On the other end, the Huskers forced the Bears into seven turnovers while holding the Bears to their second-lowest scoring output in a half this season.
Both teams struggled to make shots in the first half. The Huskers shot just 34 percent from the field, including 2-of-12 on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Bears hit only 35 percent, going 1-of-7 from behind the arc.
Things didn’t improve for the Huskers on the offensive end in the second half. NU hit just 7-of-25 from the field (28 percent), matching a season-low for field goals in a half. For the game, NU hit a season-low 32 percent from the field. However, the Huskers led for a 16:35 stretch spanning both halves, thanks to a record-setting low of three turnovers in the game, two of which came on offensive fouls. The mark tied the school record set on two previous occassions, including once under coach Doc Sadler.
After going up 14-13 on a basket by Brandon Richardson with 10:32 left in the first half, NU didn’t relinquish the lead until 13:57 remained in the game, when two Tweety Carter free throws tied the game at 35. Jones then nailed a 3-pointer to put NU back on top. After Carter answered with a bucket in the paint, Jones drew a foul on a 3-point attempt and knocked down two of the free throws to give the Huskers a 40-37 edge.
However, Baylor answered with an 8-0 run over the next 2:15 to force NU’s hand. Dunn scored on a put back to make it 40-39 and then connected on a 3-pointer to give Baylor a 42-40 lead with 10:10 remaining, the first time since the 10:33 mark of the first half that Baylor led. Carter then hit a long-range 3-pointer to put the Bears up 45-40 with 9:15 remaining.
Jorge Brian Diaz ended the BU run, rebounding his own missed shot and connecting on a jumper in the paint to cut the lead to three. After a steal, Richardson sank two free throws to draw the Big Red within one, but Udoh banked home a 10-footer to make it 47-44 with 8:04 to play.
The Huskers drew even again at 49-49 when Holley converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 4:31 remaining. Richardson then hit a 3-pointer with 2:22 left to give the Huskers a 53-50 lead. Those were the last points Nebraska would score, however, as Udoh drilled two free throws to pull within one, setting up his game-winning shot in the paint.
Nebraska goes on the road to face 14th-ranked Texas on Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. and television coverage will be provided by the Big 12 Network.