LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska started Big Ten conference play with three-straight losses, but the Cornhuskers have found a way to win, taking their last two games by more than 20 points after Tuesday night’s 84-59 victory over Minnesota.
That was the first time since January of 1981 that Nebraska had won consecutive conference games by more than 20 points. Nebraska defeated Rutgers 90-56 Saturday.
”It was really good for our team, just from a mindset standpoint, a morale standpoint, it was good to get those two,” said Shavon Shields, who led the Husker charge.
Starting his 100th consecutive game, the senior guard/forward had 19 of his 24 points in the first half, when Nebraska built a 21-point lead. Shields made 7 of 10 field goals and 9 of 11 free throws, and matched a game-high with eight rebounds.
”I thought Shavon was just terrific tonight,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. ”He was on the attack. Here’s a guy who was starting his 100th consecutive game. He was just really good. He looked like the best guy on the floor for a long time.”
Nebraska (10-8, 2-3 Big Ten), trailed 8-4 early then solved the Minnesota (6-11, 0-5) zone with a 29-4 run. The Cornhuskers went up 10 on Shields’ layup off an over-the-head assist from Glynn Watson Jr. with 9:45 left, and took a 33-12 lead on Michael Jacobson’s free throws with 6:29 remaining in the half.
”Our number one key for the game tonight was to string together effort and execution,” Miles said. ”In the first 14 minutes of the game, after that kind of awkward start, I thought we were really tough. We had four different occasions where we had consecutive stops and really built a lead off that.”
Nebraska scored 12 of its first-half points off nine Minnesota turnovers, and outrebounded the Gophers 22-9 in the period.
”We had a segment of falling down, airballs, turnovers,” said Minnesota coach Richard Pitino. ”Then it was `what is going on here, guys? We tried to get them to regroup. But it’s hard…We are an extremely unconfident basketball team right now. We can’t make shots. We can’t get stops and rebounds. That is a recipe to lose a lot of games”
The Cornhuskers had a 21-point halftime lead, and stretched it to 30 on Jacobson’s layup with 16:37 left. Nebraska’s largest lead was 38, 80-42 with seven minutes to play. That strong second half play was key for the Huskers, Shields said.
”In previous games, we’ve kind of given away leads and let teams get back in and make it into a game,” he said. ”That was a big emphasis, have a good warmup, start strong on defense because our second half defense has been really, really poor this year. I thought we did a good job of it, to keep them out of reach and out of the game.”
The 25-point win is Nebraska’s largest over Minnesota in a 64-game series that dates to 1902.
Andrew White III added 15 points for Nebraska. Jacobson, Tai Webster and Ed Morrow chipped in nine points apiece.
Jordan Murphy scored 12 points and Joey King had 10 to lead Minnesota.
Nebraska: Shields started his 100th consecutive game, and is second in program history behind Dave Hoppen, who started all 111 games he played from 1982-86. … Glynn Watson Jr. had four of the Cornhuskers’ nine steals. … Tai Webster had a game-high five assists.
Minnesota : The Golden Gophers have lost their last two games by a combined 50 points. Northwestern beat the Gophers 77-52 on Saturday. … Minnesota has lost eight of its last nine games.
Nebraska visits Illinois on Saturday.
Minnesota hosts Indiana on Saturday.