LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Haanif Cheatham knew that Nebraska had to play better against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Sunday in order to bounce back from a disappointing pre-Christmas loss to North Dakota.
The senior guard did his part, scoring 17 points to lead the Huskers past the Islanders 73-52.
“We understand the season is going to be a process, but that last game going, you know, on a little break, it was kind of devastating,” Cheatham said. “It was something that probably was on my mind for the whole four days break that we had off. I think we came in to play, we expected to play better and didn’t go away.”
Nebraska (6-7), up by 13 at intermission, saw Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (4-9) cut the lead to 10 at 38-28 early in the second period. But the Islanders were able to get no closer while Nebraska gradually stretched the lead, going up 20 on Jervay Green’s slam dunk and, six seconds later, layup that made it 57-37. Nebraska’s largest lead was 24.
Nebraska built its first half lead by holding the Islanders to just one field goal in a nearly 11-minute stretch that saw an 8-all tie turn into a 30-12 advantage after Cheatham’s free throws with 4:25 left in the period. The Islanders used a 9-4 spurt to cut the halftime margin to 34-21.
“I thought early we had some great looks,” said Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg. “We missed a couple easy layups miss some wide open threes. But we stayed in and we stayed together. We kept guarding.
“And, you know, especially with that run, you know you have to try to manufacture some points when that ball is not going in the hoop. We got to the free throw line 19 times. A lot of that was going to us getting out front of the ball and attacking the basket. You have to have that when that ball is not going in and you have to continue to guard I thought we did that tonight,”he said.
Nebraska won the game at the free throw line where the Huskers were 20 of 28 while the Islanders were 5 of 13.
Yvan Ouedraogo had 11 points and 14 rebounds for Nebraska, the first double-double for the 6-foot-9 freshman forward from Bordeaux, France.
“Sometimes we forget Yvan’s still a 17 year old kid,” Hoiberg said. “You look at him out there he’s got a big strong body, a big physical kid, but in reality, he probably should be playing in high school this year. To go out and get that double-double was huge with the 14 rebounds. We have to have that.”
Islanders’ coach Willie Willis was disappointed with his team’s defensive effort Sunday.
“Where we got into trouble tonight was our defensive transition,” Willis said. “Our defensive transition was just atrocious. We gave up 27 points in transition, and I can’t tell you the last time we have given up that many points in transition. We are, typically, a very good team in defensive transition but tonight was a night where Nebraska just ran it to the rim, and we didn’t have an answer for them.”
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has lost four straight, all on the road. The previous three losses were by three, six and four points.
Nebraska continued to struggle from 3-point range. The Huskers entered the game hitting just 34% of its 3 pointers. Nebraska made just 1-of-12 3s in the first half before going 6 for 13 in the second half to finish at 28%.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi hosts Division II-member Northeastern State Thursday.
Nebraska hosts Rutgers Friday.
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