The wheels came off early for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. At least that's how it appeared after Nebraska's leading scorer Terran Petteway picked up his second foul within the first 1:02 of action. With Petteway on the bench for most of the first 10 minutes, Nebraska was able to cling to the Cincinnati Bearcats thanks to Sean Kilpatrick's shooting struggles and an impressive contribution from Ray Gallegos behind the arc. With Nebraska down just 2 after 9 and a half minutes, 14-16, Petteway returned and managed to avoid picking up his third foul though he scored just 3 points in the first half.
In the second half, Petteway exploded for 19 points including 3 three-point baskets. Between Terran and Ray Gallegos, Nebraska was very efficient behind the arc, posting 9/20 from three on the afternoon. Unfortunately, Nebraska was unable to score inside the arc against Cincinnati swarming defense, converting just over 30% of their two-point attempts. Justin Jackson led the charge for Cincinnati's defense, with 4 of the team's 6 blocks.
To their credit, Cincinnati did a great job of rotating defensively along the interior and consistently providing help when the ball occupied the interior of the defense. Though they struggled to find consistency beyond the arc, they avoided taking too many inefficient attempts, dominated Nebraska on the glass, and consistently took trips to the free throw line. Sean Kilpatrick finished with 18 free throw attempts on his own - 7 more than Nebraska took all afternoon. Late free throw attempts ultimately sealed it and the Bearcats beat back Nebraska 74-59.
Players I Watched
Terran Petteway -Though Petteway was dogged by 2 fouls early on and was ineffective for much of the first half, he was able to provide his usual contribution thanks to a monster second half where he made 3 of his 4 three-point attempts.
Sean Kilpatrick - Kilpatrick had one of his worst shooting outings of this young season, converting just 2/11 field goal attempts. Sean didn't take himself out of the game though and was aggressive enough to end up attempting 18 free throws, making 17 of them. Overall, Kilpatrick didn't shoot as well as he normally did but still found a way to be effective.
Justin Jackson - Sean Kilpatrick's 18 free throw attempts were huge for Cincinnati, but Justin Jackson may have been the player of the game. His 4 blocks kept the Cornhuskers from establishing offensive continuity against the interior of the Bearcat defense and he altered nearly every shot that Nebraska attempted beneath the free throw line. Jackson's strong defense, he had 2 steals and 10 rebounds in addition to his 4 blocks, was huge in setting the tone for what was a tough, physical game.
Shavon Shields - Shields did some things well but he was smothered by the aforementioned Justin Jackson and finished just 1/11 from the floor for 2 points, well short of the 13 he had averaged to this point . He did increase his output as a passer, but notched just 3 assists total. Shields had a terrible game, negating a strong contribution from Ray Gallegos. Shavon doesn't deserve scorn for failing to deliver today, Justin Jackson is one of the country's very best defensive big men, but his no-show was unfortunately a big factor in Nebraska's loss today.
Cincinnati is just better than Nebraska. Their defense is as stingy as advertised and Justin Jackson may still be coming on as a defender. Ray Gallegos' big night should be encouraging for the Cornhuskers, who will need the talented shooter to help stretch the floor in conference play. Tai Webster was and still is an inefficient scorer, but it was a good sign that the true freshman seemed to have a knack for getting wherever he wanted on the floor, even if he couldn't convert those attempts today and may struggle to do so all year. Tim Miles' team was more competitive than you might expect considering the depth of talent on their roster and it looks like he'll have a pretty good team sooner than later. This looks like a team that should reach postseason play, though it probably won't be the NCAA tournament.
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