Earlier in the day, Nebraska students found out that “C’s get degrees” was true during the winter graduation ceremony. A few hours later, Nebraska basketball found the inverse to be true—“C-level” efforts don’t translate to wins.
The Huskers lost 75-74 to North Dakota to fall to 5-7, suffering their fourth loss to a non-power conference team this season.
The game was back and forth early with Nebraska jetting out to a 6-2 lead before UND went on a 15-4 run to take a 17-10 advantage seven minutes into the game, capped off by a layup from senior guard Marlon Stewart.
Nebraska would cut its deficit to one point at 23-22 shortly thereafter on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Cam Mack, but sophomore forward Filip Rebraca answered immediately to push the lead back to four points.
A frenzied series of points ensued over the last minute-plus of the first half. Nebraska freshman center Yvan Ouedraogo made two free throws with 1:02 remaining to draw Nebraska back within one possession at 30-27. UND went two-for-one and got a close-range jumper by Rebraca to push the lead back to five with 46 seconds left, but Nebraska got a quick basket by Cam Mack 13 seconds later.
North Dakota called a timeout to draw up a play that resulted in a made 3-pointer by senior forward Kienan Walter with nine seconds to go, his second make of the half from long range. Nebraska advanced the ball quickly, with Mack drawing a shooting foul only a second later. He would split the pair of free throws and Nebraska went into the half down 35-30 like a student heading to fall break after getting C grades on his first quizzes and exam.
The lead would hold steady for UND throughout the second half. The largest lead never grew past eight points, and it never felt like a comfortable margin. Nebraska would hit a basket to draw within one score, but the Fighting Hawks would immediately answer back to regain their two-possession advantage. In the game, the lead changed hands only three times.
Nebraska fought back to take a 71-69 lead with 1:42 left. Trailing 69-66 after a jumper by Rebraca, junior guard Dachon Burke Jr. scored on a layup to draw Nebraska within one and after a Rebraca turnover, senior guard Matej Kavas connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the game, giving Nebraska its first lead since the game stood at 8-7 less than five minutes into the first half.
The Huskers gave the lead right back 17 seconds later. After a missed three by Kienan, freshman guard De’Sean Allen-Eikens exploited Nebraska’s rebounding woes with a putback and the damage was exacerbated when Mack was whistled for his third foul on a weak attempt at stopping the follow-up shot. Allen-Eikens converted the and-one to give his team a 72-71 edge with 1:25 remaining in the game.
Kavas had the ball for Nebraska and missed his first three of the evening on the next possession, but Ouedraogo grabbed the offensive rebound and flipped the ball to Burke, who was fouled.
That foul was the Fighting Hawks’ seventh of the half, sending Burke to the free throw line to shoot a one-and-one. He missed the front end and North Dakota scored on another putback the next possession to take a three point lead with 40 seconds in the game.
Mack, who led Nebraska in scoring with 19 points, capped his scoring and tied the game eight seconds later on a pull-up three from the right wing, directly in front of Nebraska’s bench. That was his third made three of the night.
UND took a timeout to draw up a play. Stewart, the game’s leading scorer with 23 points, dished the ball to Allen-Eikens, who missed a layup. Rebraca grabbed that rebound and shoveled it back to Allen-Eikens, who was fouled by Mack with 7.3 seconds on the clock.
Allen-Eikens calmly connected on his first foul shot before Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg called timeout to draw up his team’s final play, the team’s final study session before the cumulative final exam.
Whatever that play was, it did not get run.
Allen-Eikens missed his second free throw and the rebound ended up in Burke’s hands. He snaked his way up the floor and took the last shot, a fall-away off of one leg from the right short-corner. He drew only the heel of the rim and Nebraska could not get a follow-up as the ball hung in the air as time expired.
Once again, free throw shooting woes cost Nebraska a win. The student equivalent of attendance points, Nebraska missed out on seven points at the charity stripe, making only 9 of 16 attempts. There was no one team member to blame, with Mack and Ouedraogo missing multiple and Burke missing a key attempt late.
That issue proved costly as Nebraska and North Dakota were nearly even in other key statistical categories. UND shot 48 percent while Nebraska shot 47 percent and the Fighting Hawks also held a one-point advantage in points off turnovers. Nebraska outshot UND from 3-point range, 43 percent to 35 percent, outrebounded the Fighting Hawks, and turned the ball over two fewer times.
For Nebraska, Mack’s team-high 19 points came on 7-9 shooting, including three of Nebraska’s nine 3-point makes on five attempts. He also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out seven assists. Kavas was the second-leading scorer with 12 points on four long-range makes.
Two other players scored in double-figures for Nebraska, as Burke and Cheatham both scored 10 points.
Ouedraogo nearly recorded a double-double, finishing both a point and a rebound shy, while Jervay Green returned to action quietly, taking only two shots and scoring three points.
As for North Dakota, four players scored in double-digits. Stewart upped his career-best scoring mark at Pinnacle Bank Arena from 20 points in this same matchup two years ago to 23 this time on 9-15 shooting.
Allen-Eikens and Rebraca both tallied 15 points, shooting a combined 12-23 from the floor, including 3-7 on threes. The other player to crack 10 points was Walter, who made four of his eight 3-point attempts and another basket to finish with 14.
Nebraska is next in action on Sunday, Dec. 29 against Texas A&M Corpus-Christi. The tip-off time has not yet been announced, and it will be televised on BTN.