GEORGETOWN, Cayman Islands — Junior guard Jervay Green scored 14 points in the second half to lead Nebraska over Washington State 82-71 in the Cayman Islands Classic on Monday for the Huskers’ third straight win.
Green finished with 16 points and was one of five Huskers in double figures. Haanif Cheatham scored a team-high 19 points, making 8 of 10 shots. Dachon Burke and Kevin Cross each added 14 points, with 10 more coming from Cam Mack.
Washington State guard CJ Elleby scored 27 with six rebounds.
“We talked to our team about the teams that win these games, especially the first one, is the team that plays harder and with more effort,” coach Fred Hoiberg told the Husker Sports Network after the game. “I thought we did a good job with that tonight.”
After losing the first two games of the season, Nebraska is now 3-2. The Huskers move into the winners bracket and will play George Mason at 6:30 p.m. CST Tuesday. The game will be streamed exclusively on FloHoops.com.
Nebraska fell behind 37-34 in the first half after Washington State turned seven offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points. NU had jumped out to a 20-14 lead after a Burke 3-pointer, but it struggled to get out in transition, and settled for an abnormal number of shots from 10 to 15 feet. The Huskers struggled from the foul line in the first half, making just 2 of 7, and could not find an answer to Elleby, who scored eight of WSU’s first 10 points.
The Washington State lead was 35-27 before a late push from Nebraska closed the gap to three by halftime.
In the second, Hoiberg and assistant Doc Sadler completely changed the defensive strategy, which flipped the game.
“We were trying to blitz the pick and roll early and they were slipping out of the screen, and we just went to a square coverage where the defender guarding the ball stays square with his man and they drop down to let them not get behind,” Hoiberg said. “I thought our guys made a great adjustment. They did a great job going out and executing our plan.”
Nebraska also parked Mack in the middle of the lane to be full-time help-side defense. The switch led to five steals, which turned into 11 second-half fast-break points for Nebraska and broke the game open.
After scoring just two points in the first, Green came out firing, banking in a 3-pointer to give NU a 41-40 lead at the 16-minute mark. He scored eight points in the opening five minutes and led NU on a 12-2 run to open the half.
After the third steal of the half, Green threw ahead to Cheatham, who scored to put NU up 48-42 and force WSU coach Kyle Smith to call a timeout.
During a 10-minute span in the second half, Nebraska made 10 of 11 shots to build a 16-point lead.
“Once we got the rebound, they couldn’t run with us,” Green told a Nebraska spokesman after the game. “My teammates, they just kept telling me to shoot the ball and whatever happens happens. And they believed in me, and that just gave me confidence. And I hit the first 3, and then I just went from there.”
Washington State cut its deficit to 10 points after putting on a late full-court press. Hoiberg wasn’t pleased with how his team handled that, but NU made enough free throws to escape.
Nebraska began the season 18 of 78 from 3-point range, just 23%. The Huskers have made 21 of their last 39 attempts from deep.
George Mason is 6-1 on the season and beat Old Dominion 60-53 in the first round Monday night. The Patriots are the 26th-best 3-point defense in the country, keeping teams to 25.9%.
They run a 1-2-2 press that Nebraska hasn’t seen this season, Hoiberg said.
“They’re a tough team,” Hoiberg said. “We’re going to have to attack that, try to get them on the back end, but overall I was very pleased with coming out tonight.”
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