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March 9, 2011

Huskers fall to OSU in first round of Big 12 Tourney

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Lance Jeter could only just lie there, face down on the Sprint Center court with his teammates staring up at the scoreboard in disbelief and his opponents running to center court in celebration.

This wasn't the way his last Big 12 Conference game was supposed to end.

After putting up one of the best overall individual efforts by a Nebraska player this season, the senior point guard couldn't keep his feet on the final play of the game, tripping over a defender and losing possession of the ball as time expired without even getting off a final shot.

The game buzzer sounded, and just like that the Huskers' last glimmer of NCAA Tournament hope went up in smoke with a 53-52 loss to Oklahoma State in the first round of the Big 12 tourney on Wednesday.

"I was pretty much just trying to make a play and got tripped up," Jeter said. "No (foul) is going to get called on a last-second play, that's normal. I've got to be strong enough to at least get an attempt up. I didn't, and they got the loose ball.

"I've got to get a shot off, and I didn't. You've got to be strong enough when you go in the hole and get contact, and unfortunately I didn't on that play. It's a sad way to end the game."

After trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half, Nebraska came storming back right out of the gates in the second half and eventually took its first lead of the day at 39-38 on a deep 3-pointer by Brandon Ubel with 11:20 left to play.

An offensive rebound and put-back by junior guard Caleb Walker gave the Huskers their biggest lead of the game at 48-44 with six minutes to go, but that would be the end of their second half run.

Nebraska failed to make a field goal in final six minutes of the game, and Oklahoma State was eventually able to reclaim the lead for good on back-to-back 3's by junior guard Keiton Page that made it 50-48 with 3:56 remaining.

The Huskers definitely still had life in the final seconds, though, as a pair of free throws by Jeter cut it one point with 35.1 left and then Jeter found Toney McCray wide open under the basket for a dunk that made it 53-52 with 23.1 on the clock.

Page got the ensuing inbounds pass, and NU nearly got the steal before eventually fouling Page with 16 seconds to play. A 90-percent free throw shooter on the season, Page somehow missed the front end of a one-and-one to give the Huskers the ball back with 10.4 remaining and a chance to win.

After a timeout, Nebraska ran a play designed to get Jeter the ball and give him options of passing to Richardson coming off a screen, finding McCray on a slip screen or taking the shot himself.

Richardson couldn't get open, and Jeter didn't see a wide-open McCray with the game clock ticking away. Needing to make a play, Jeter drove to the lane but tripped over OSU's Matt Pilgrim, forcing him to stumble and lose the ball.

"At the end of the day, I wouldn't want it in anybody else's hands in the nation than Lance Jeter," senior guard Drake Beranek said. "He's come up big for us all year long. He's a competitor, and I can't say enough about him."

Once again, Nebraska sputtered out of the gates offensively, while the Cowboys came out red-hot.

With its first five baskets consisting of three 3-pointers and two And-1's coming in the first five minutes, Oklahoma State jumped out to an early 15-7 lead. While the Cowboys eventually cooled off a little bit, the Huskers couldn't buy a bucket for the majority of the first half.

Aside from two goaltending calls on OSU on shots by Jorge Brian Diaz, Nebraska didn't make a field goal for a full 12 minutes until a 3-pointer by Jeter with 33.6 seconds left in the half.

Even though Oklahoma State went up by as much as 14 during that span, the Huskers somehow found themselves trailing just 30-21 going into halftime. Overall, NU shot just 22.6 percent (7-of-31) from the field in the first half compared to 45.5 percent (10-of-22) by the Cowboys.

"Offensively, it was just as bad as it was at Colorado at the beginning of the game," head coach Doc Sadler said. "Our cuts were not very quick, and we just didn't get going. We missed some easy shots. We got the ball inside and missed some easy baskets. When you struggle like that, you've got to make every shot or it looks really bad.

"I don't think (the energy level) was good at all. We almost had a scared look about us. That surprised me."

Jeter ended the day with a game-high 17 points, including 10 in the second half, to go along with four rebounds, four assists and two steals. McCray and Ubel, both finished with 11 points and a team-high six rebounds.

Page led Oklahoma State with 16 points, as the Cowboys advance to take on No. 1-seed Kansas tomorrow in the second round.

The Huskers, on the other hand, must now try to turn around and make the most of what's left of their postseason.

"Sometimes the ball goes your way, and sometimes it doesn't," Jeter said. "Unfortunately it hasn't in these last couple games we've been playing to get where we wanted to go. We had great chances to get where we wanted to go, it was on our shoulders, and we didn't' do what we were supposed to do.

"You've got to suck it up and you've got to get better. It's going to be a new team next year, and the sky is the limit for them. They're going to get better and better."



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