LINCOLN — Had Dylan Talley's day ended at halftime, he wouldn't have slept much Sunday night.
Nebraska's senior guard, coming off a one-point performance against Valparaiso, started 2 for 12 from the floor against the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Worse, the guard he defended, Justin Simmons, made a series of HORSE shots in the first half: off-balance, off the dribble, even off the glass.
A couple of times, Talley said, “I fought over the ball screen, he was fading to the right, just jumped up and shot a 3 right in my face. ... I was thinking to myself, it's impossible for him to keep doing this the whole night.”
Husker fans were surely thinking the same. For 30 minutes, Nebraska's in-state little brother was in position to hand Tim Miles his first loss. Who intervened? The same Husker who got humbled in the opening 20 minutes.
Talley scored 14 second-half points, carrying Nebraska to a 75-62 win in front of 6,961 at the Devaney Center.
“He kinda decided, listen, we're not losing this game,” Miles said.
Somebody had to. The Mavs, playing their third road game in five days, looked like the fresher team early, jumping to a 23-17 lead. Three straight baskets early in the second half gave UNO a 46-44 edge, forcing Miles to spend a timeout.
“Omaha came with the intention to kick our butt,” said Husker center Andre Almeida, who chipped in 19 points, one shy of his career high.
Simmons especially. The transfer from Butler (Kan.) Community College, who hit 1 of 5 shots at Tulane on Friday, nailed six of his first eight. Did Nebraska scout him as a jump shooter?
“Not that kind of a jump shooter,” Miles said.
“He made two tough ones early, kind of floating, pull-up J's in the middle of the lane. We had a hand up right on him. Then it got a little nutty.”
Miles is referring to the banked shot from near the top of the key. Between Simmons and Alex Welhouse, who buried 4 of 5 from long range for 14 points, UNO had an advantage on the perimeter.
But when you match a BCS-level program against a low- to mid-major, Mavericks coach Derrin Hansen said, size is usually the deciding factor.
The Huskers outscored UNO 46-14 in the paint and had a 24-6 edge in second-chance points. Often, it seemed their best offense was to miss a shot and get a putback.
“We drew that up in the huddle,” Miles said facetiously.
Talley, who settled for jump shots early in the game, attacked the rim during Nebraska's critical second-half run. At the 9:19 mark, he took advantage of an offensive rebound, drove and scored to give Nebraska a 56-48 lead. Next possession, he scored in transition.
Talley finished with 22 points, the most since he transferred to NU a year ago.
“Everybody knows how good a scorer he is, so I think that was key,” Almeida said. “He got himself going and got the rest of the team going.”
Meanwhile, Almeida, who averaged 3 points the first two games, pounded the Mavs in the paint. His 19 points and seven rebounds represented his best game since his Husker debut two years ago.
“Realistically, we need somebody to step up,” Miles said. “It might as well be him. Why not? Seriously, why not? Because he hasn't done it in the past, right? So that's why not.
“But why live that self-fulfilling prophecy? Let's get him the dang ball where he deserves it and see what he can do with it.”
Nebraska's offense will be tested as the competition heats up. Wednesday begins a run of six consecutive tests: Tulane, Kent State, at Wake Forest, USC, Creighton, at Oregon.
“Hopefully, they're learning to win and understanding the mentality it takes to come out every night and compete,” Miles said. “We have to find a way to win every game.”
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