Ray Gallegos had a game plan that Iowa defenders couldn’t figure out until the latter minutes of Saturday’s game.
It took the Nebraska men’s basketball guard 11 minutes into the matchup to knock in his first 3-pointer of the game. Five minutes later, Gallegos made another one. And another one.
The junior was saving his best for last, but the same couldn’t be said for his teammates because the Hawkeyes (20-11 overall, 9-9 Big Ten) prevailed and beat Nebraska 74-60 in the final game of the 2012-13 season.
Gallegos paced the Huskers (14-17, 5-13) with 22 points in the losing effort while finishing with a career-high seven 3-pointers.
The personal best by the Salt Lake City native was one of the few bright spots for Nebraska all afternoon, according to Nebraska coach Tim Miles.
“He really shot well; I thought he was in rhythm,” Miles said. “(The game) was a difficult one, there’s no doubt. But at the end of the day, you have to credit Iowa.”
The Hawkeyes recorded a season-high 57.1 percent of their field goal attempts and were paced by sophomore Aaron White’s team-high 19 points.
But the story of the day for the Huskers was Gallegos.
In their first matchup Feb. 23, the Hawkeyes halted any type of scheme Gallegos had planned, allowing just 11 points on a 4-for-12 shooting performance. Saturday’s point total was a different story. It doubled.
The double-digit outcome by Gallegos surprised Miles, the coach said.
“I challenged Ray because he didn’t practice very well,” he said. “And I didn’t think he did much against Minnesota. So I’m like c’mon now, we need you. He really stepped up.”
Gallegos picked up where he left off in the second half and drained Nebraska’s first 3-point shot to pull the Huskers within eight, 34-26. A 9-0 run and 3-pointer by senior guard Dylan Talley then made it a one-point ball game, 43-42, with 15 minutes left.
After beginning the game poorly, Miles began to believe his team would pull off another comeback victory against Iowa this weekend.
“It was a 10-1 start, and we finally got it in to within two in the second half,” he said.
The early scare after halftime was a surprise to White.
“We came out the first four or five minutes and didn’t have the defensive intensity,” the Iowa forward said. “We knew they weren’t going to go away; they’re a gritty team.”
But the small deficit would be the closest Nebraska would get the rest of the game.
Iowa outplayed and outmatched Nebraska, shooting 72.7 percent (16-for-22) from the paint in the second half while holding the Huskers to just 37.5 percent shooting overall.
Despite starting the second half on a run, the Huskers began to look lackadaisical and couldn’t keep up with the Iowa shooters. A nine-minute scoreless stretch and a 15-0 run by Iowa proved that, according to Miles.
“It looked to me like a mismatch,” he said. “We never really were getting stops. You don’t normally allow that many dunks and have it go your way. The points in the paint I said were going to be the key in the game.”
Although Gallegos continued his hot shooting from behind the arc and finished with three more shots from downtown, the lack of assistance from teammates proved costly, according to Miles.
“You have to credit Iowa, but we just made some careless mistakes,” Miles said. “It’s just one of those things where we couldn’t get everybody on the same page. And we don’t have a lot of options on the bench.
Gallegos’ seven jumpers from behind the arc were one shy of Nebraska’s school record, and marked the fourth time this season the guard has nailed six or more 3-pointers in a game.
After falling victim to Iowa to end the regular season, Nebraska will travel to Chicago to compete in the Big Ten Conference tournament as the No. 10 seed. In the first round, the Huskers will take on the No. 7 seed Purdue (15-16, 8-10) Thursday.
Once the clock hits 5:30 p.m. for tip-off, Miles said he’s hoping to see a different Husker team than what he saw this weekend.
“We just need to keep grinding,” he said. “And find a way to get them healthy here going into the Big Ten tournament and make a play there.