Nebraska takes down Minnesota

Published 3:40 am Thursday, March 7, 2013

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — It wasn’t a ranked opponent Nebraska beat, but the students rushed the court anyway.

When it comes to basketball history, the Cornhuskers haven’t had much to celebrate. So a hard-fought 53-51 victory over Minnesota was reason enough Wednesday, with it being Senior Night and the last college basketball game at Bob Devaney Sports Center.

“We had a pretty good crowd today, and they’ve been great the whole year,” Andre Almeida said. “We had that feeling like we had to give them something good, it being the last game in Devaney. For the last one, it was a pretty sweet game.”

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Brandon Ubel scored Nebraska’s last 10 points and finished with 15, and the Cornhuskers never trailed against the team that upset then-No. 1 Indiana just last week.

The Huskers (14-16, 5-12 Big Ten) won despite shooting only 36 percent. The Gophers (20-10, 8-9) shot 38 percent but made only 10 of 20 free throws while dropping to 1-7 in Big Ten road games.

Minnesota had won four straight over Nebraska, including an 84-65 victory in Minneapolis on Jan. 29.

“Last time out against us, they kind of punked us,” Ubel said. “We came out with the mindset that wasn’t going to happen again. We played that way for 40 full minutes, and the outcome was very, very awesome.”

Dylan Talley added 12 points for the Huskers, and Almeida came off the bench to score four points, grab five rebounds and block three shots in 18 minutes that first-year coach Tim Miles called his best performance of the season.

Miles said he plans to present a game ball to seniors Ubel, Talley and Almeida.

“All three were special tonight,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool group that bought in. You start trying to coach them up, and it’s like, ‘Are you kidding me, with this guy?’ They’ve been unconditional. They don’t flinch. When we were 11th in the league and could have packed it in, this group kept fighting to the end.”

Trevor Mbakwe scored 15 points and Andre Hollins had 14 for Minnesota. Rodney Williams, who scored a season-high 23 against Nebraska in January, was held scoreless.

“They outplayed us, outworked us, outcoached us and were very deserving of the win,” Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. “We just didn’t do some things. Shooting was a big part of it. They shot better from the free-throw line and seemed to want it more.”

The Huskers are moving to the new Pinnacle Bank Arena west of campus next season. Fans lingered in the stands after the game, snapping pictures of the 37-year-old arena.

Miles grabbed the public-address microphone and said, “Hey, Husker fans. Thank you for 37 years in the Devaney Center. We love you.”

The Gophers couldn’t finish their comeback against the Huskers and a juiced-up crowd of 13,194 that came to see off the arena and the seniors.

Asked if the atmosphere bothered his team, Smith said, “It must have, because we were horrible.”

The Huskers led by as many as nine points in the second half but couldn’t put the Gophers away because of two long field-goal droughts.

After Hollins cut it to 46-44, the Gophers’ pressure defense forced Talley to take a long 3-pointer as the shot clock was running down. Rivers tried to chase down the long rebound but committed his fifth foul when he ran into Hollins. Hollins made the free throws to tie it at 46 with 2:21 left.

Nebraska was back on top 49-46 after Ubel went to the hoop against Elliott Eliason, got fouled and made the free throw.

Minnesota had another chance after Julian Welch partially blocked a Benny Parker shot. Hollins missed a 3 with 13 seconds left. Ubel was fouled on the rebound and made the free throws, and it was 51-46.

After Hollins drove the lane to make it a three-point game with 8 seconds left, Ray Gallegos was called for a five-second violation trying to inbound the ball.

Maverick Ahanmisi missed a 3-pointer, and Ubel got the rebound, took off up the court and was fouled again. He made two free throws to secure the victory.

Hollins said the outcome might have been different if the Gophers had shot better from the line. Then again, he said, it wasn’t going to be easy to win on an emotional night at the Devaney Center.

“It’s their last game here, and they had a good crowd going against us,” he said.