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December 1, 2010

Second half run sparks Huskers to 76-57 win

It was only two weeks ago when it seemed as if Nebraska couldn't make a 3-pointer even if the basket was 10-feet wide.

On Wednesday, the Huskers looked like a team full of sharpshooters.

Behind nine 3-pointers and shooting 60 percent from the field overall, the Nebraska held off an equally hot-shooting Jackson State team and eventually pulled away with a 76-57 victory.

Junior guard Caleb Walker and sophomore guard Eshaunte Jones both led the way with a team-high 13 points, while the Huskers (5-2 overall) had five different players score in double figures on the night. On the other side, 12 of the Tigers' 18 field goals were 3-pointers.

Though some may have taken Jackson State for granted, Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler said he knew his team would be in for a test Wednesday night.

"I mean guys, that team went 17-1 (last season) and had four starters back with one guy (Grant Maxey) who was (the Southwestern Athletic Conference) player of the year two years ago who's back now. They're going to be a nice basketball team. I'm surprised that we won as - and I'm not going to say it was easy because it wasn't easy, I'm surprised we won by the score that we won by though."

While Nebraska appeared to be in control the entire game, it didn't finally pull away until a couple minutes into the second half. A basket by sophomore center Jorge Brian Diaz with 17:30 to play sparked a 20-3 run that was capped off by a steal and lay-up by junior guard Brandon Richardsonwith 12:20 to go.

The Huskers, who had made just 3-of-10 3-pointers in the first half, made four treys in the run, while Richardson hit two of them and scored all 10 of his points during the stretch to put the Huskers up by their biggest lead of the night at 52-32.

The Tigers were able to chip away at the lead a little bit and bring it to as few as 12 points, but that would be as close as they would come the rest of the way.

"It was just confidence and more energy, pushing the basketball ball getting in the flow," said Walker, who shot 6-of-7 from the field to go along with five rebounds and five assists. "Everybody was feeding off each other, and I think it started with B-Rich, just feeding off his energy."

Nebraska never trailed in the first half, but it seemed as if the score should have been a lot more lopsided than it was after the first 20 minutes.

While the Huskers were able to take a 28-21 lead into halftime, Jackson State just wouldn't go away after NU would gon on a brief scoring run. The biggest reason was the Tigers' perimeter shooting, as 15 of their 21 points came off five 3-pointers and the other six came at the free throw line.

Nebraska was able to hold JSU at bay and lead pretty much the entire half, but Jackson State cut the lead to as few as two points on three different occasions with timely shooting from beyond the arc.

The Huskers didn't help their cause much either, as they hit just 3-of-10 3-pointers and committed six first half turnovers. Walker was one of the lone bright spots for NU early on, scoring nine of his 13 points in the opening half.

"At halftime, I told them, 'Guys, I can't be any prouder of your defense,'" Sadler said. "I mean you hold a team to 21 points and all five field goals are 3-point plays, I mean, I don't know if that's ever happened in basketball. So our defense, I couldn't be any happier in the first half with it."

Sophomore forward Brandon Ubel and senior guard Drake Beranek added 10 points for Nebraska, while Tyrone Hanson led Jackson State with a game-high 15 points on five 3-pointers.

The Huskers will return to action on Sunday when they play host to instate rival Creighton, with tip-off set for 1 p.m.

"We look forward to (playing Creighton) because it's our next game," Richardson said. "Just like before we played Jackson State, that was our big game because it was our next game. That's how we look at this upcoming game against Creighton. They're a very good, talented basketball team, so we have to be ready."

Around the rim

***Sophomore forward and second-leading scorer Christian Standhardinger was held out of Wednesday's game for what Sadler said were academic reasons. Sadler said he expected Standhardinger to be back in the lineup for Sunday's game against Creighton.

"He just has to get caught up on some academic work," Sadler said. "He got behind, and he should be caught up and be ready to go on Sunday."

***Nebraska had five players scoring in double figures for the first time since Nov. 21, 2009 against TCU.



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