LINCOLN — The rain brought the thunder.
In Nebraska's second-to-last home game at the Devaney Center, guard Dylan Talley gave Husker fans a lasting memory: a 25-foot, step-back, impossibly high-arcing 3-pointer to beat the shot clock — and Iowa.
“I haven't hit a shot like that ever, really,” Talley said after NU's 64-60 win.
“A prayer,” Nebraska forward Brandon Ubel said.
“The kid made it,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “Give it to him.”
Roughly 80 percent of the 11,849 fans in Devaney on Saturday did just that, exploding with noise when Talley hit the shot with 9.2 seconds left to put the Huskers ahead 63-60.
The remaining 20 percent — Iowa fans lining the top of the arena — hoped South Sioux City native and Hawkeye freshman Mike Gesell could answer. But his running 3-pointer bounced off the rim and over the backboard. NU guard Ray Gallegos iced the game — and perhaps Iowa's chances at an NCAA tournament at-large bid — with a free throw.
After falling short in single-digit home losses to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State, the Huskers closed out an RPI top-100 conference opponent, and they did it without coach Tim Miles making a substitution in the second half.
The contest between neighbors — postponed by a snowstorm — was worth the extra two days' wait.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 15,” said NU freshman Shavon Shields, who finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. “One of the funnest games I've ever played in.”
The Huskers (13-14, 4-10 Big Ten) reserved most of their cheer for the second half. Iowa owned the first 20 minutes, sprinting to a 41-25 halftime lead.
Miles said Nebraska's offense was “disjointed” and “random.” Talley had missed 6 of 7 shots. Shields didn't take a shot until the 5:56 mark of the half. The Hawkeyes used a half-court zone trap to slow NU's offense to a crawl.
“We looked like we were ready to get run out of the gym,” Miles said.
Calls of “Let's Go Hawks!” rolled down from the top of the Devaney, loud enough during one timeout that a board operator noticeably turned up the in-house hip-hop music to drown it out.
Gesell, who spurned NU for the Hawkeyes, nailed his first two shots and had a dramatic series of plays late in the first half when he blocked a Gallegos layup, ran down the ball and later dished to a teammate for a 3-pointer. That sequence was part of a 9-3 run to end the first half. Gesell had six assists at halftime. He never had another.
Just 4:26 into the second half, Nebraska had sliced the lead to eight. Talley — who scored 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half — started knifing into the lane for floating jumpers over the shorter Gesell. Gallegos, who'd launched 11 mostly contested shots in the first half, took just one the rest of the game. NU shot 63 percent over the final 20 minutes with five starters never taking a breather.
Iowa got tight.
“We had guys who are normally aggressive offensive players really being very tentative,” McCaffery said. “Wouldn't shoot. Turning down shots. Throwing the ball to the wrong guy, throwing the ball to guys who aren't open. Fumbling the ball out of bounds.”
Nebraska finally took the lead with 2:29 left on Shields' 18-foot jumper. Ubel hit a turnaround shot for a 60-57 lead. Iowa's Aaron White tied the game at 60 with his team's lone 3-pointer of the second half. The Hawkeyes had a chance to take the lead with 45 seconds left, but Roy Devyn Marble missed a shot and committed a foul.
NU burned clock until 20 seconds were left, called a timeout, and Miles drew up a double-pick play for Talley to get to the basket. Gesell worked over both screens. Talley dribbled back to his right, heaving the shot as the crowd counted “two” on the shot clock.
“From where he was at, off a step-back with a guy in his face, I was like, 'All right, time to get a board.' ” Ubel said. “But it dropped.”
Said Talley: “I was yelling. I had no idea what I was yelling. I was saying some things.”
McCaffery chose not to call time out after Talley's trey. He said he had no problem with Gesell's missed 3-pointer. The 6-foot-1 guard has made that shot many times, McCaffery said. Not Saturday. Iowa made just four shots in the last 12 minutes of the game.
“I hope they feel as badly as I do right now,” McCaffery said of the Hawkeyes.
Nebraska, meanwhile, pulled off its third-largest comeback in school history and kept alive its slim hopes for an NIT berth. But Saturday, the Huskers weren't looking too far ahead. Just savoring one of the final memories in Devaney.
“It feels good to get one,” Shields said. “And the fashion that we did it, it was super fun. I'm just glad we got over that hump.”
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