LINCOLN — Make Miami miserable.
That was the Nebraska men's basketball game plan Wednesday night, and they worked it to near perfection during a 60-49 victory over the Hurricanes in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The win by NU (6-2) allowed the Big Ten to force a 6-6 tie in the series.
Interior defense had been an issue for the Huskers, but things changed in front of 12,579 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
How much? Miami's four inside players produced two baskets.
“We improved a lot,” said forward Leslee Smith, who had seven points and 10 rebounds. “We were a lot more physical this game. We wanted to make it uncomfortable for these guys.”
Overall, Miami shot just 32 percent from the field, and that took a late burst to achieve. The Hurricanes (5-4), down nine points at half and by 16 with 12:05 to play, finally closed to 43-36 with 4:33 left.
UM guard Rion Brown had 23 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, and hit the 3 that cut the deficit to seven points. But coach Jim Larranaga wasn't pleased with the modest comeback.
“That's kind of how we play,” said the 2012-13 national coach of the year, who lost all his starters from a 29-7 team.
“We have a hard time scoring. We lost a lot from last year, and we lost our top freshman scorer to an injury. We need better balanced scoring.”
So, Coach, you want a second and third option?
“I'd like to find our first option,” he said.
Nebraska gave Miami no options in the first half. NU held UM scoreless the first 4:17 and also blanked the Hurricanes for 5:46 in a different stretch.
The problem for the Huskers, who never trailed, was their offense was stale, too. In the first half, the teams combined to miss more than twice as many shots (36) as they made (14).
Nebraska had a field-goal drought of 5:51 and a separate scoring drought of 3:44 while squeezing out a 22-13 halftime advantage.
In the second half, wing Terran Petteway and forward Walter Pitchford warmed up.
Petteway scored all 14 of his points in the second half, including seven in the first 5Ĺ minutes after halftime. He also had three rebounds and three blocks.
Pitchford provided a momentum swing after Miami had cut a 36-20 Nebraska lead to 36-31. The 6-foot-10 sophomore drilled a 3-pointer, then took a charge on defense that stirred the crowd and his teammates.
What really helped NU, Pitchford said, was strong film study and preparation the previous two days.
“In practice and film, especially, Coach (Miles) points out the stuff we really need to crack down on and get better at,” he said. “As a team, I think we pick up on stuff really fast. That's a big key for us.”
“They had some big, long, athletic guys,” he said. “Coach told us don't give them angles or shots in their offense. We played really well and took them out of their game and made them do other things.”
Wednesday's game was the end of a 10-day, 5,000-mile trip for Miami. The Hurricanes played in the Wooden Legacy tournament in California, a field that included Creighton.
Still, Larranaga said he saw nothing from the travel that impacted his team's play.
“I thought we played pretty hard,” he said. “I didn't see a letdown physically or mentally.”
Ľ NOTES: Pitchford went to the locker room for about three minutes in the first half for treatment on his left knee. ... Husker freshman wing Nathan Hawkins (foot) suited up for the first time and went through warmups. ... Only three free throws were shot in the first half, all by NU.
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>> Video: See highlights from Nebraska's win over Miami: