Nebraska made the stops down the stretch when it had to, as the Huskers pulled out a 61-57 win over Tulane Wednesday night in the Joe Cipriano Nebraska Classic.
Nebraska, which improved to 4-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign, didn’t allow a field goal during the final seven minutes to overcome a 55-52 deficit to remain unbeaten.
“We talked to our guys and told them it was going to be a tough game,” Nebraska Coach Tim Miles said. “It was a gritty win. I thought we did enough on defense. They (Tulane) were in control the first 10-12 minutes of the second half, but I thought we buckled down at the end and played gritty defense and made enough hustle plays to hang in there.”
Trailing 55-52, the Huskers held Tulane (3-2) scoreless for nearly five minutes, as seniors Dylan Talley and Andre Almeida supplied the offense. Talley’s runner in the lane with 5:43 left pulled NU within one before Almeida, who did not attempt a field goal for the first 35 minutes, gave the Huskers 56-55 lead on a mid-range jumper that kissed off the glass.
Almeida and Talley then combined on NU’s biggest offensive play down the stretch, as Talley found Almeida wide open for a dunk to put Nebraska up 59-57 with 1:45 left.
On Tulane’s next possession, the Green Wave got an offensive rebound and regained possession with 1:07 left. On the inbounds play, Jordan Callahan was fouled attempting a 3-pointer. Callahan, a career 73 percent shooter from the line, missed all three attempts and NU got possession, but could not capitalize.
Tulane had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final minute, as Josh Davis, who led all players with 19 points and 12 rebounds, could not hit a jumper to tie the game with 21 seconds left before Callahan, who finished with 16 points including a trio of 3-pointers, missed another jumper with five seconds remaining. Thomas Bruha got the offensive rebound after Callahan’s miss, but traveled to give NU possession.
Ray Gallegos then stepped to the line and hit both free throws with three seconds remaining to provide the margin of victory.
Gallegos and Talley led four Huskers in double figures with 14 points each, while Almeida scored nine of his 10 points in the second half and added six rebounds and four blocked shots. Brandon Ubel was the fourth Husker in double figures as he finished with 12 points.
Early on, Nebraska used strong long-range shooting to build a 33-28 halftime lead. The Huskers went 7-of-10 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes and built a 22-13 lead after a Mike Peltz 3-pointer. NU led 25-17 after a Gallegos’ 3-pointer, but Tulane roared back, using an 8-2 spurt to pull within 27-25 after a Ricky Tarrant 3-pointer. Tulane pulled within 30-28 before Talley’s 3-pointer gave the Huskers a five-point lead heading into the break.
NU held Tarrant in check, as the preseason All-Conference USA pick had eight points on 3-of-12 shooting.
The Huskers built a 39-32 lead after a 3-point play from Benny Parker with 17:42 left, but a Callahan 3-pointer started an 8-0 run for Tulane, as the Green Wave took a 40-39 lead after a Callahan jumper in the lane and neither team enjoyed more than a one-possession lead until the final seconds.
The Huskers will complete the five-game homestand Saturday night, as they host Kent State at the Devaney Center. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. and tickets are available for as little as $5 by visiting Huskers.com or calling 800-8-BIGRED, as Nebraska looks to clinch the Joe Cipriano Nebraska Classic championship.