GEORGETOWN, Grand Cayman — Haanif Cheatham scored a career high with 26 points, and Dachon Burke added 21 to lead Nebraska to a 74-67 win over South Florida on Wednesday.
The win is Nebraska's second in the Cayman Islands Classic, giving the Huskers a third-place finish in the tournament.
A 15-2 run late in the second half — sparked by three straight steals turned into points — gave the Huskers a late cushion. Two 3-pointers from Burke sealed the win.
"We had an emotional meeting this morning, talking about how things are going to be up and down and how we had to stick together," Cheatham said. "I think we had a lot of fire tonight and I think we had it for all 40 minutes."
Nebraska shot 55% from the floor and made 6 of 14 3-pointers. The Huskers were out-rebounded 39-29, giving up 17 offensive rebounds, but turned USF over nine times and scored 17 points in transition.
The Huskers shot 60% from the floor in the second half. They are now 4-3 on the year.
NU led by five early, making four of its first five shots. USF started 2 of 9, but quickly heated up on an 11-4 run to take a 16-14 lead by the under-12 timeout. David Collins scored a team-high 16 points for USF. Laquincy Rideau added 15 with three rebounds and five assists.
The Bulls made five 3-pointers in the first half and turned nine offensive rebounds into seven second-chance points. South Florida led by as many as eight at 27-19.
Then Cheatham caught fire with a long two, a take to the hoop and two free throws to close the gap.
Cam Mack, who did not start for the first time this season, finally got going in the closing minutes with two of his three first-half assists on back-to-back 3-pointers from Jervay Green and Cheatham.
The Huskers trailed by just two at the break, 35-33. Mack finished the game five five points, seven assists and one turnover.
Eight points from Burke in the first four minutes of the second gave NU a three-point advantage out of halftime.
USF ran off an 8-1 run, but that was countered with a 15-2 run by Nebraska to take back control.
A steal from Burke and throw-ahead to Cheatham tied the game at 53, another steal and dunk from Burke gave NU a two-point lead. Mack found Thorir Thorbjarnarson backdoor to take a 59-53 lead with about eight minutes left, forcing USF coach Brian Gregory to call a timeout with 9:03 left.
"Thor kind of got it going for us. He got a UCLA cut right to the basket, and that really got our movement going," Fred Hoiberg told the Husker Sports Network after the game.
Nebraska made 10 of its first 15 shots of the second half. They ended up making 14 of 23.
Cheatham tore through the lane for a lay-in for 63-55 by the under-8 timeout. But USF then dropped back in a zone, and Nebraska slowed down. The Bulls scored seven straight and got to 63-62 with four minutes left.
But Burke responded with two straight guarded 3-pointers, the second from about 25 feet, that gave NU a 69-63 cushion.
"It was a big one," Burke said. "I felt like I have the best teammates in the country, the best coaching staff. They put me at the right places at the right time, we were just working."
Mack drove and hit a teardrop for a six-point lead with one minute left. He canned two free throws at the end to keep South Florida at bay.
An Yvan Ouedroaogo rebound at the buzzer closed out the win, Nebraska’s fourth in five games.
Nebraska will have a few days before flying to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
"We played three completely different teams. And it helps to play, especially in the preseason games, all these different styles and different types of basketball," Hoiberg said. "Good tournament for us, especially to get two of these three wins. Awesome to see our guys bounce back after a difficult game last night and respond with great energy and third game in three nights."