It was close for much of the game, but the Nebraska men’s basketball team pulled away late for their third win of the year Sunday.
The Huskers, 3-0, took down the upstart Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, 1-4, 75-62 with superior size and strength in the paint and on the boards. A 22-11 second half run broke open a 44-all tie and gave the Huskers all they would need for the victory.
Six-foot-11-inch center Andre Almeida was the difference for the Huskers according to Maverick coach Derrin Hansen.
“We are not going to get 290 pounds in the paint to help us rebound the basketball,” the coach said. “Regardless of where anybody thinks your program is, when you go BCS school versus low-to-mid-major school, a lot of times bodies really take over, and that one really took over us today.”
Almeida tied a career high with seven rebounds and was a point off his career mark in points with 19. The outpour of production came after the center scored two and four points in Nebraska’s last two games. Husker coach Tim Miles said after the game he expects Almeida continue producing like he did on Sunday.
“Realistically, we need somebody to step up, and why not him?” Miles said. “Seriously why not? Because he hasn’t done it in the past, right? Well, let’s not make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let’s get him the dang ball where he deserves it, and see what he can do with it.”
Almeida was just part of Nebraska’s utter dominance under the basket. The Huskers outscored the Mavericks 46-14 in the paint and out-rebounded them 39-28. It was obvious going into the game that Nebraska had the advantage inside, but when it was all said and done, Miles was happy with his team’s performance from in close.
The Husker coach was not happy with the way his team came out of the gate, however. The Huskers allowed the Mavericks to take the fight to them, Miles said.
“I thought they did a really good job of being on the attack,” the coach said. “I don’t know where our mindset was, but that doesn’t matter. I thought they were the better executing team. I think they were the aggressor.”
Omaha fought Nebraska closely throughout much of the first half and into the second half as well. The Mavericks led with 16 minutes to go in the game. Hansen said his team came out with good energy and did what he asked them to do.
“I thought we came in with a game plan, and we really followed that,” he said. “I thought we had guys taking shots that they didn’t want to take. With this young team that we have, that’s the best we’ve taken it and put it on the floor.”
The Mavericks were led by junior guard Justin Simmons’ 19 points and four rebounds. At times, it seemed that he was single-handedly keeping Omaha close.
“He’s capable,” Hansen said. “Justin is a good basketball player. He can make shots on his own, which is great for a coach. He’s a really athletic player. He’s long, and he’s a great kid. I’m excited to see where he matches up with Summit League guards night in and night out.”
The Huskers play again on Wednesday versus Tulane and finish out their appearance in the Joe Cipriano Nebraska Classic with a game against Kent State on Saturday.