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November 27, 2010

Huskers use second half rally to stun USC 60-58

Just when it seemed as if nothing could go right for Nebraska, everything suddenly did all at once.

After a terrible start to the game in which the Huskers trailed Southern Cal by as many as 20 points in the first half, NU came out in the second half and could seemingly do no wrong in a come-from-behind win on Saturday, 60-58.

The comeback matched the largest ever in school history, tying the 20-point rally NU made in during the 1997-98 season.

Nebraska shot 58.3 percent from the field after halftime, while USC went almost the final 8 minutes with scoring a single point.

Trailing 55-49 with 7:56 to go in the game, Nebraska went on an 11-0 run to eventually take its first lead of the night and then go up 60-55 on a basket by forward Christian Standhardinger with 2 minutes, 20 seconds remaining.

The clock steadily ticked away, and USC was unable to answer Nebraska's rally until a 3-pointer the old fashioned way by guard Maurice Jones with 6.9 seconds to go snapped a 9:57 second scoring drought for the Trojans and made it 60-58.

Nebraska had a chance to ice the game on the next possession when forward Brandon Ubel was fouled on the inbounds pass with 5.5 seconds remaining, but Ubel missed the front end of a one-and-one to give USC a chance to tie or even win the game.

However, Jones's desperation 3 as time expired clanked off the side of the rim to give Nebraska its most impressive non-conference victory of the season.

"To our guys' credit, we made some shots, but I think the biggest thing with this basketball team, they found a way in the last five minutes to come back and win a game," head coach Doc Sadler said. "I think that's huge. I mean, we're down 20 in the first half, and I'm not sure the toughness would've been there a year ago. We just kept going and the guys kept competing, and that's a credit to them."

The first half couldn't have gone much worse for Nebraska, as their offensive woes resurfaced while USC took advantage and put together a costly scoring run to lead by as much as 20 midway through the half.

The biggest problem, as was the case through the first two games of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, was the Huskers' inability to make shots. While guard Lance Jeter scored on a goal tending call on USC early in the half, the Huskers went the first 7:40 without actually making a basket.

On the other end, the Trojans took full advantage of NU's shooting struggles and went on a 25-5 run to take their biggest lead of the game at 32-12 with 5:12 to go.

Fortunately the Huskers were finally able to get something going on offense, as a runner and free throw by Jeter and back-to-back 3-pointers by guard Caleb Walker cut the deficit to 39-26 heading into halftime.

Nebraska ended up shooting 42 percent from the floor (10-of-24) and 44 percent (4-of-9) from beyond the arc in the first half, but prior to the late run in the final minutes, the Huskers made just seven field goals, including one 3-pointer, and shot 33 percent.

"The first half, obviously I thought we were getting some good looks and good shots from the guys that we need them to get, and we just weren't making some shots and they were making everything," Sadler said. "I told the team at halftime, we're not going to go out there and get a 13-point play. You go out there these first five minutes and play as hard as we can play, and let's just peck and peck and peck away."

Nebraska kept that first-half momentum going in the second half, as it went on a 17-3 run and cut the deficit to 46-44 on a 3-pointer by guard Drake Beranek that truly brought the Devaney Center crowd of 5,947 to its feet for the first time all season.

The Trojans were able to keep NU at bay for the next five minutes, but they couldn't hold off the Huskers long enough. Diaz led the way with a game-high 14 points, while Jeter finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Sadler credited Jeter for providing the emotional spark for the Huskers during the comeback win.

"That's Lance," Sadler said. "If we're going to make tough plays, Lance has got to be the one that makes them. He's been there. I thought the biggest thing that Lance did was when we were really struggling, being a guy that was trying to get his teammates going in a positive way."

Alex Stepheson and Smith led USC with 14 points a piece. Nebraska returns to action on Wednesday when it plays host to Jackson State at 7 p.m.

"Like Coach said, last year, we probably wouldn't have come out with this victory," Jeter said. "It just shows the toughness that we put in in the offseason and during the season. We feel like we really are a good team, and when it is a tough time, we've got to be strong enough mentally and physically to get through it. My team did that, and I'm just so proud of them."



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