ATLANTA — Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe scored 26 points, Nebraska shot 25% from the floor in the second half and the Huskers dropped their first true road game of the season 73-56 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Senior guard Haanif Cheatham had team highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Cam Mack, back in the starting lineup, scored 11 with six assists. Thorir Thorbjarnarson added a career-high 11 points.
But as a team, the Huskers tied a season-low with six 3-pointers, turned the ball over 18 times and missed 24 of 32 shots in the final 20 minutes. The Huskers missed 17 layups, 10 free throws, scored points on 33% of all possessions and turned it over on 23%.
“Obviously, we just didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight,” Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said in his postgame radio interviews. “I told them, I said, ‘Guys, it didn’t come to an end tonight. There’s things that we’re going to get better at. There’s a lot of things that are in our control, that are fixable.’ ”
NU dropped to 4-4. Up next is Creighton on Saturday afternoon.
Before it came apart, the Huskers poked some holes in the Yellow Jackets’ zone in the first half, taking a four-point lead 15 minutes into the game. A 10-2 run led by Mack gave NU some juice. Mack hit Thorbjarnarson backdoor, fired a bullet to Jervay Green for a corner 3, then took it himself for a tear drop over James Banks, the NCAA leader in blocks.
After Thorbjarnarson took two charging fouls and scored his sixth point in transition, NU led 26-22. The Huskers made 6 of 9 shots in that stretch.
From then on, Nebraska missed 25 of 36 shots against a Georgia Tech zone that dared the Huskers to shoot. Senior Dachon Burke was 1 of 9. Matej Kavas played 12 minutes, missing all three shots. Kevin Cross scored two points, shooting 1 of 6.
A 22-6 run by Georgia Tech (4-2) in the final four minutes of the first half and first four minutes of the second flipped the game, and NU never recovered.
Nebraska missed 10 of 11 shots to open the second half, failing to score for more than five minutes at one point. Instead of settling for jumpers, NU drove into the zone and got to the foul line, but finished 8 for 18 there.
“We didn’t shoot any free throws in the first half, so to get there and create those opportunities, that’s a good sign,” Hoiberg said. “But we have to be able to convert them.”
Nebraska ranks 347th (out of 351) in the country in free-throw shooting this season, making 56% from the line.
A 3-pointer from Green kept Nebraska in striking distance at 57-47. With a chance to cut it to a three-possession game, Burke missed a layup then Ouedraogo was blocked by Banks as the shot clock buzzer went off.
Mack cut it to 60-51 with a guarded 3-pointer. Twice Nebraska had a chance to cut it to six or seven. Cheatham was blocked in transition. Green missed a layup.
It was over after that.
Georgia Tech, with a size advantage, scored 48 of its 73 points in the paint. Hoiberg said the Huskers knew the plays Tech was going to run to its bigs. But time after time, NU made the wrong reads and Tech scored easily at the rim.
“Last time we lost a game (Nov. 26 against George Mason) we really struggled with it,” the coach said. “We had to pull the group together and have a meeting and talk some things out and then bounce back with really good effort against South Florida. The mistakes that we made, they’re absolutely correctable.
“Now we’ll get back to work and hopefully come out and play a complete game on Saturday.”