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Nov. 14, 2009
Lincoln, Neb. - Despite a balanced scoring attack with nine of the 10 active players scoring, USC Upstate succumbed to a late first half spurt and an early scoring drought in the second half as Nebraska took a 76-49 victory over the Spartans Saturday night in the Devaney Center.
Upstate dropped its season opener for the third straight season in Division I. The Spartans will travel to Bloomington, Ind., to take on Indiana Monday night at 8:30 in a game televised on the Big Ten Network. Nebraska improved to 1-0 on the year.
"I think what you saw tonight is what you are going to see the rest of the season," said Upstate head coach Eddie Payne. "We had a lot of guys play and there was even point distribution. We have to get a little better offensively. I thought we played well defensively, but we are going to have to improve our offense."
Carter Cook led Upstate, finishing with nine points on three three-pointers. Nick Schneiders added eight points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, though he only took six shots on the night. He increased his career total to 120 blocked shots and is just 16 shy of the all-time record at Upstate.
Upstate hung tough with Nebraska for the better part of the first half. It wasn't until the last five minutes when Upstate made just one bucket that the Cornhuskers were able to put together a run and put the Spartans against the ropes.
Sek Henry, the leading returning scorer for Nebraska which returned just four scholarship players from last year's 18-win team, hit a three-pointer to open the game. Uzochukwu answered with a mid-range jumper and Schneiders connected on a short jumper to give Upstate a 4-3 lead early on. The tone was set for the majority of the half.
Although Nebraska opened a six-point lead, 14-8, with 12:05 to play in the half, Upstate battled and Schneiders' jumper got the Spartans within one at 19-18. The Spartans continued to trail by one, 21-20, with under six minutes to play when Josh Chavis nailed a 16-foot jumper with 5:32 to play to give the Spartans a 22-21 lead.
While Upstate had matched Nebraska's effort in the half, the Cornhuskers would benefit by the Spartans' inability to score the remainder of the period. Upstate made just one basket the rest of the way and Nebraska closed the half with a 10-2 run to open a 31-24 lead at halftime.
"I thought the effort was there in the first half," said Payne. "I thought our defensive effort was good in terms of how we guarded them, executed on ball screens and those types of things. And, I think that effort carried over to the second half as well. I don't think the final score was indicative of how well we played defensively."
Upstate withstood Nebraska's attempt to put the game away in the first two minutes of the second half. Carter Cook nailed a pair of three-pointers to cut the Cornhuskers' lead to four, 34-30, with 18:18.
However, Upstate would go cold for the next 6:34, failing to score a point in the scoring drought. The Spartans' inability to score proved to spell the difference in the game after Nebraska went on a 15-0 run to open a 49-30 lead with 12:01 to play in the game.
After Sharod Minus nailed a jumper to cut the Nebraska lead to 17, the Cornhuskers took the lead to 27 points with 8:42 to play and coasted to the win.
After shooting 40.7 percent from the field in the first half, Nebraska shot a hot 54.8 percent in the second half and hit 8-of-13 shots from behind the three-point arc. Upstate finished the game shooting 38.8 percent from the floor and 37.5 percent from the three-point arc.
"They shot the ball at a high level," said Payne. "They are a good solid team with a lot of length on the floor. In general, from a competitive standpoint on how hard our guys played, I was pleased."
Nebraska had three players finish in double figures. Lance Jeter led the way with 17 points and six assists. Brandon Ubel tallied 12 points with two blocked shots, while Toney McCray added 10 points and four boards.