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December 6, 2009

Mental errors cost NU in 67-61 loss to Creighton

OMAHA, Neb. - Nebraska senior Ryan Anderson knew from the first time he touched the ball that Sunday's game against in-state rival Creighton was going to be a long night for the Huskers.

After hauling in a defensive rebound on the Bluejays' first shot, Anderson tried to pass the ball to junior Lance Jeter. Jeter wasn't looking, and the ball bounced out of bounds for a turnover.

That play was only a sign of things to come, as Nebraska couldn't stay out of its own way in what ended as a 67-61 loss to Creighton at Qwest Center Omaha.

"From the first play when I got the first rebound, I threw the ball to Lance, and it was just miscommunication," Anderson said. "I tried to give him the ball, and it went out of bounds. I was just like, 'Oh my God. This is going to be a long night.'

"You kind of could just feel it. There was no chemistry between us. Everybody was on a different page. We weren't all tuned in on the same thing, everybody was trying to do their own thing, and it wasn't working."

The mental errors started early and continued throughout the game for the Huskers. By the end of the night, NU had committed a season-high 20 turnovers, 25 fouls and shot just 64.3 percent (9-of-14) from the free-throw line.

Still, Nebraska was in position to pull off a win with roughly two minutes left to play, as the Huskers trailed just 59-57 after a 3-pointer by Jeter with 2:33 remaining. But Creighton hit six straight free throws in the final two minutes to hold on for the win and snap its three-game losing streak.

"We've been on the road now three times, and two times I haven't recognized the team and one time I did," head coach Doc Sadler said. "You know, you come here to play or you go anywhere on the road, you better understand how to play. If you would have told me coming into the basketball game that you're going to turn the basketball over 20 times, they were going to shoot 16 more free-throws and you've got a chance to win with two minutes to go, I'd tell you you were nuts.

"Everything that I think we had to do to have a chance, we didn't do any of them."

Nebraska found itself in an early hole in the first half, as Creighton jumped out to a 19-9 lead behind a 13-0 run. During the stretch, the Huskers committed five turnovers and three fouls, and they were shooting just 29 percent from the field overall up to that point.

After Jeter snapped the scoreless streak with a free-throw with 9:30 left in the first half, Nebraska quickly climbed its way back into the game with a run of its own. Trailing by 10, NU outscored the Bluejays 13-2 and eventually took a 22-21 lead when Henry dished a nice pass down to freshman Brandon Ubel for a lay-up with 4:28 remaining.

Creighton ended up taking a 32-27 lead into halftime, though, as Antoine Young put in a lay-up as time expired.

The score remained close throughout the second half, and Nebraska finally reclaimed the lead when freshman Ray Gallegos drained a 3 with 9:48 to go to put NU up 44-43.

The momentum shifted back in Creighton's favor around the eight-minute mark though, when the Huskers surpassed the seven-foul limit and put the Bluejays in the bonus at the free-throw line. As a result, CU hit four straight from the charity stripe to take the lead for good.

It looked like Nebraska was about to get on a roll when senior Sek Henry and Jeter knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 59-57, but Creighton put an emphatic end to that rally when senior center Kenny Lawson Jr. threw down an alley-oop dunk with 2:08 on the clock to put the Bluejays back up by four.

Lawson stole the show Sunday night, posting the best game of his career with 25 points and 10 rebounds. His 25 points were a career high, and the game also marked his first career double-double.

Jeter scored a team-high 12 points for Nebraska, adding five rebounds and four assists. Henry and Gallegos both added 10 and were the only other Huskers to score in double figures.

Nebraska will look to get back on track when it plays host to Chicago State Thursday night and then takes on Oregon State Saturday at the Devaney Center.

"We just did things that we don't do," Sadler said. "Obviously when you've got as many young guys as both teams have, it's not going to be a pretty game."



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