Although the offense was at a premium, both Nebraska and Cincinnati saw their defenses force a combined 40 turnovers, field goal percentages in the 30’s, and ten minutes of extra basketball. Luckily for Nebraska, they got the final bounce.
Benny Parker’s floating 10-footer with 1:14 to play in the second overtime proved to be the game winner as Nebraska came away with a 56-55 win over Cincinnati at the Pinnacle Bank Arena to end a two-game losing streak. An expected low-scoring game did not disappoint as both teams combined for just 36 made field goals, with Cincinnati connecting on 31.7% of their shots from the field while Nebraska wasn’t much better at 32.7%.
Parker’s winning shot ended recent frustrations for the Huskers, who had dropped a shocker to Incarnate Word 74-73 on Wednesday and were defeated by Creighton 65-55 last Sunday.
“I just looked up and saw that the clock was running down. I saw an open lane, and we’ve been working on floaters all week because they were big and athletic,” Parker said of his game winning shot.
“We worked on it in practice and I was able to knock it down.”
It was a gritty game from start to finish, which Nebraska head coach Tim Miles knew was coming. But, the third-year head coach was proud of his time for hanging tough with a rugged Cincinnati squad and fighting to the very end.
“I’m just so thankful for these guys and the effort they put in tonight. Nobody had an ego. The only time there was frustration was when somebody made a mistake,” Miles said.
“The crowd was amazing. You could see the difference in our guys’ effort and stance when the crowd got into it. What a great night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.”
Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway led the Huskers with 13 points apiece, but Petteway fouled out with 40 seconds left in the first overtime as Cincinnati took a 49-48 lead. Two Troy Caupain free throws extended the Bearcats’ lead to 51-48 with 26 seconds remaining, but two free throws from Tai Webster closed the gap to 52-51 and after Jermaine Sanders missed his second free throw with 14 seconds remaining in the first overtime, Sanders then fouled Shields to send the junior to the line where he hit both and sent the game to a second extra session.
“It was good to get that monkey off our back. We kind of had a rough week and we lost two games earlier in the week–all on things we can control,” Shields said of the victory. “I think tonight we did great job of bouncing back, staying together and focusing on what we could control and at the end we got the victory.”
Both teams hit just two field goals in the ten minutes of overtime basketball, but Nebraska made all eight of their free throw attempts while Cincinnati left points at the line with four big misses. Caupain led the Bearcats with 13 points, the only Cincinnati player in double figures, while Gary Clark had eight points and eight rebounds but it wasn’t enough to send Nebraska to a third straight loss at home.
Cincinnati’s defense kept them in the game from start to finish, even though Nebraska held a 13 points lead in the first half after Walter Pitchford’s three-pointer gave Nebraska 19-6 lead. Forcing 22 Nebraska turnovers on the night, the Bearcats clawed back to trail 23-21 at halftime and would eventually take the lead for the first time on two DeShaun Morman free throws with 9:08 left to play in regulation. Neither team led by more than three for the final nine minutes of regulation and the following ten minutes of overtime basketball. Nebraska forced 18 Cincinnati turnovers and battled the Bearcats to a standstill on the glass, with the Bearcats narrowly outrebounding the Huskers 43-42.
“I think we definitely grew as a team tonight. We learned and stayed together and competed,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said. “It is just a shame that we did not get the win, because obviously we basically gave the game away with two fouls.”
“I believe part of the process of becoming a team is you got to go through things, whether that is going through success, if we ever have any, or dealing with losses. The psychology of the team, you either get tougher or fall apart.”
The defensive struggle continued into the second overtime, where Cincinnati got its only points on a three-pointer from Kevin Johnson with 3:42 remaining. The Huskers answered with two free throws from Webster trimmed the Bearcats lead to 55-54 with 2:08 to play, with Johnson misfiring on the next Cincinnati possession to give Nebraska their chance to regain the lead for good. Shields’ three-point attempt came up short, but Webster grabbed the rebound before it went out of bounds, found Parker at the top of the key, and Parker penetrated into the lane to let his game winner fly from just inside the free throw line.
“We had to step up. Coach told us that is what we had to do leading up to this game. I think we executed it pretty well,” Pitchford said. “We battled, played our butts off and grinded through it.”
“It was excellent.”
Pitchford led Nebraska in rebounds with 10 and added 9 points, while David Rivers had six points and eight rebounds and Petteway added nine rebounds to go along with his 13 points. The loss drops Cincinnati to 6-2, while Nebraska moves to 6-3 with the win and a trip to Hawaii next up for the Big Red. The Huskers open play against host Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic on December 22 at 11:59 p.m. central time. Nebraska would then play either Wichita State or Loyola Marymount the following day in either winner’s bracket or consolation action.