The transition to Division I basketball may have been sped up a bit for Incarnate Word on Wednesday night.
Kyle Hittle’s baseline shot with just over three seconds to play helped the Cardinals stun Nebraska 74-73 at the Pinnacle Bank Arena, sending the Huskers to their second straight loss. But Incarnate Word might be the true story, as the private school from San Antonio, Texas continues its four-year transition from Division II basketball into Division I.
“It’s a great school, great campus and people across the street don’t even know we exist,” Cardinals head coach Ken Burmeister said after the upset win. “We have just over 8,000 students, so for us to do this is great for our program, but it might be even greater for the university in the future.”
Hittle finished with 18 points as the Cardinals moved to 5-1 on the season. But none were bigger than those final two points, as the ball swished through the net with 3.2 seconds to play. Nebraska’s Terran Petteway came up short at the buzzer on a long three-pointer that would have given the Huskers the win.
“We’ve hoped for this forever,” Hittle said. “We’ve had big schools on our schedule that we’ve tried to beat to get some notice. Hopefully this does it.”
“It’s a great win for our program. It’s so unreal, so unreal.”
The Cardinals led by one at halftime after the Huskers jumped to an early 8-0 lead. Nebraska stretched their lead to as many as 10 again in the second half, but Incarnate Word wouldn’t go away as Hittle and Jontrell Walker led the way for the Cardinals as Walker finished with a game-high 19 points.
Shooting 58 percent from the floor in the second half didn’t hurt matters for the Cardinals either, with Nebraska head coach Tim Miles searching for answers.
“I don’t know where some of our guys are mentally, but I would venture to say that there are some guys that are worried and that does not work. The aggressor always wins,” Miles said. “We said at halftime that I thought we were tentative. I thought we were tentative on defense more than anything.
“I think we were just hoping this went well.”
It looked like Nebraska had things under control after a free throw from David Rivers put the Huskers up 71-66 with 33 seconds to play. But a layup by Traylin Farris and turnover on the following inbounds pass led to a crazy final sequence. First, Incarnate Word’s Shawn Johnson was fouled on a three-point attempt and made two-of-three at the line to make it a 71-70 Nebraska lead with 17 seconds remaining. Shavon Shields would then hit two free throws for Nebraska, before Johnson found himself at the line again after being fouled on a three-point attempt with 7 seconds remaining.
Again, Johnson made two-of-three at the stripe and it was still a one-point Nebraska lead. But Petteway’s inbounds pass sailed out of bounds untouched, giving the Cardinals the ball under their own basket with 7 seconds to play. Hittle would get the ball in the left corner, turned baseline, and hit a contested shot with 3.2 seconds to go to put the Cardinals ahead and on the cusp of their shocking victory.
“Incarnate Word is a good team, but we shouldn’t have lost to that team on our home floor by any means. You don’t have to point the finger. You can put the blame on me. I made that last turnover,” Petteway said. “It was careless. It was a stupid play and it cost us the game.”
Shields would lead the Huskers with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Petteway added 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out five assists in the losing effort. Nebraska has now lost back-to-back games at the Pinnacle Bank Arena for the first time since it opened last season, dropping their all-time mark to 19-3 in the new building.
Sophomore Tai Webster thinks it’s time for the team to play better by looking out for each other as teammates.
“”I think it’s time we come together and have look at ourselves. We need to talk amongst the team and come and start playing to what our identity really is. It’s on us,” Webster said. “It is not on the coaches or anything else. It’s on us to come out, step up and start playing Nebraska basketball.”
Nebraska was without the services of center Moses Abraham, who broke a bone in his right hand at practice on Tuesday. Miles said the absence of Abraham hurt their defense and they hope to have the senior back in the lineup within two to three weeks.
” It sounded like he hit the back of his hand on the back of the backboard. I’m not quite sure. It was in practice yesterday. That will be 2-3 weeks at least. We hope to have him back by conference play,” Miles said.
Incarnate Word moves to 6-1 with the victory, while Nebraska slumps to 5-3. The Huskers will play their third game of the week on Saturday when it hosts Cincinnati, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. in Lincoln.