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February 16, 2011

Huskers end road losing streak with 59-58 victory

For nearly two full seasons, Nebraska just couldn't seem to catch a break on the road in Big 12 Conference play.

So when the Huskers finally got a little luck in the final seconds against Oklahoma on Wednesday night, it was definitely a long time coming.

When OU's Cade Davis drilled a jumper from the corner with 2.9 seconds left on the clock, everyone assumed he had just tied the game at 59-59 with a 3-pointer. But even as Nebraska's Lance Jeter heaved up a half-court shot to try and win the game as the buzzer sounded, no official had ever signaled that Davis's shot was in fact a 3.

As it turned out, Davis's right foot was well over the 3-point line, making his shot a worth only two points, and, for the first time in 13 league road games, giving the Huskers a victory, 59-58.

"It's just unbelievable we finally got what I consider a big break," head coach Doc Sadler said on his post-game radio show. "It's one of the biggest we've gotten since I've been here, and it comes at a great time. I don't know how well we played… but we were able to hang on. It's a credit to our guys. Now you get that win on the road that you needed. It's a good thing, and hopefully we can build on this."

In a game that featured more than 20 lead changes, Nebraska (17-8 overall, 5-6 Big 12) seemed to take control late in the second half when Jeter hit a 3 to take a 53-47 lead with 5:24 remaining.

However, Oklahoma (12-13, 4-7) came right back with the help of six straight points by guard Steven Pledger paired with a two-minute scoring drought by NU to tie it at 53-53 with 3:21 to go.

The Huskers eventually found themselves clinging to a one-point lead with less than a minute to play. Needing get some points on the board, Jeter drove down the right side of the lane and under the basket with the shot clock winding down and dished out one of the prettiest passes of the year to a slashing Toney McCray for an easy lay-up with 44 seconds left.

"That was a big play, because we were struggling to score at that point and we got an easy basket," Sadler said.

Forward Brandon Ubel added a free throw to put Nebraska up 57-53 with 23.1 seconds remaining, and it looked like the Huskers were just moments away from winning a conference road game for the first time since 2009.

Then again, nothing ever comes easy for NU on the road.

On the ensuing possession, Oklahoma's Carl Blair took the ball the length of the court and converted an And-1 with 17.3 seconds left to make it a 57-56 game. Once again, though, Jeter was there to step up and make the big play, hitting both of his free throws after being fouled on the following inbounds pass to bump it back up to a three-point game with 16.2 seconds to play.

While Oklahoma was able to and make the big shot in the final seconds, despite being heavily contested by Caleb Walker, it was one step shy from sending the game into overtime.

"A lot of things have to happen for you to win on the road," Sadler said, "and tonight we had some good things go our way."

Neither team was exceptionally sharp to open the game, as both teams struggled with turnovers, poor shooting and other costly mistakes throughout the first 20 minutes.

While Sooners would lead heading into halftime, Nebraska was able to cut it down to one point when senior guard Drake Beranek drained a jumper with the shot clock winding down to make it 27-26 with 20.9 left. The Huskers caught a break when Davis missed a lay-up on the final possession of the half to keep it a one-point game.

Sophomore Jorge Brian Diaz scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting from the field, while Walker added eight of his 10 points in the first half to provide really the only consistent offense for NU. Overall, Nebraska committed nine turnovers in the first half.

"I thought the unforced turnovers were something that we can't afford to have," Sadler said. "But we only had two in the second half. Again, to go on the road and get a win, no matter how you play, is big, because it's been very difficult for everybody in this league to get a road win."

McCray scored 12 points in the win, while Jeter finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in another solid all-around performance. The Huskers won't spend too much time celebrating the win, as they will play host to No. 3 Texas on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

"You couldn't ask for any more," Sadler said. "Obviously you get a big win here on the road and you've got probably the No. 1-ranked team in the country coming in to play you Saturday, and I know the Devaney Center is going to be going crazy. As a player, you can't ask for anymore than that. That's why you come to a Big 12/Big Ten school. You get a chance to play in that type of atmosphere, and I can't wait.

"It's going to be a challenge, but it's one that I know our guys are going to look forward to, I know our fans are going to, and as a basketball coach you really, really like to be put in that situation. So let's go for it and let's get us another win."



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