Men’s basketball narrowly beaten by Nebraska

By Brian Earle

Trailing by 13 points in the second half, men’s basketball’s comeback attempt fell short as it was defeated by Nebraska 63-58 Saturday in Lincoln.

The Huskies had cut the deficit to as little as one point when freshman guard Dontel Highsmith drilled a three-pointer with nine seconds left. NIU fouled junior guard Deverell Biggs to extend the game, and he hit two free throws to put Nebraska up three, 61-58.

Highsmith had a strong game in his first career start, dropping a career-high 13 points. Sophomore guard Travon Baker had a look to tie the game, but his shot was off the mark and rebounded by Biggs, who secured the rebound and hit two more free throws.

“Dontel Highsmith just made one [three-pointer] and we wanted to loop him under and try to get him off the flare for a shot in the corner,” said coach Mark Montgomery. “Unfortunately, Nebraska did a great job of switching everything, and the next-best option was Travon to pull up and shoot a three or penetrate and kick, and they really did a good job of clogging up the middle, so the three was a good option.”

The Huskies’ comeback was sparked by redshirt junior center Jordan Threloff. The DeKalb native took over the game with his size and strong play in the paint, scoring a game-high 18 points.

“He came in and was very aggressive,” Montgomery said. “They didn’t have a player that could stay with him so we decided to start him in the second half… He was getting the ball in areas where he can make plays and get some offensive rebounds. He is the one player that other teams double, and when he got doubled he kicked it out to open players and got us open shots.”

Nebraska took down the Huskies with a balanced scoring attack, having three players score in double-figures.

The Cornhuskers got a career performance from Biggs, who tied Threloff for a game-high 18 points. Junior forward Leslee Smith added 13 points while sophomore forward Terran Petteway dropped in 12 points.

“I think their top eight players average eight or more points,” Montgomery said. “You can’t scheme off anyone; you have to play them all honest. And they had guys that came off the bench, stepped up and made some plays. I thought we kept their leading scorers under their average.”