The Nebraska Cornhuskers probably didn’t expect to sweat out a visit from the UTSA Roadrunners.
They probably didn’t anticipate that the game would be tied with a little more than four minutes remaining.
But that was exactly the scenario that played out Wednesday night in Lincoln, when the Cornhuskers had to dig deep for a late push to turn back the Roadrunners, 104-94.
“They’ve done that to a lot of people,” UTSA coach Steve Henson told the team’s radio broadcast. “Boston College was a close game going into the last few minutes and they just shut ’em out down the stretch.
“(Against) Kansas the other night, they shut ’em out until the very last shot, pretty much (in a one-point loss for the Cornhuskers). So we knew they had the capability of screeching us to a halt.
“They’re a good team. They’ve got good depth. Good size. Good players. I got a lot of respect for them.”
UTSA freshman Jhivvan Jackson led the Roadrunners with 26 points. Both Jackson and Deon Lyle gave Nebraska fits by hitting five three-pointers apiece.
In all, the Roadrunners tied a season high with 15 treys. They also did reasonably well on the boards, getting beat only 44-34 despite a huge size disadvantage.
But Henson was most proud of the way his players battled in the first half. Falling behind by 14 once, they rallied to within seven at intermission.
“It was ugly,” Henson said. “It was not our style of basketball. We couldn’t get a run going. You know, we’ve got that ability to go on a run and get things in a flow. But they didn’t let us do it, and we hung in there. And that was good to see.
“I know we’re a good team when it’s easy and we’re flowing. When both teams are getting up and down the floor. But I like the stretch there when it was hard and our guys hung in there and found a way to keep the game within reach.”
Guard James Palmer, Jr., led the Cornhuskers with 25 points. Guard Anton Gill came off the bench for 21, and Evan Taylor added 16.
After UTSA tied the game 86-86 on a Jackson three-pointer with 4:23 remaining Gill sparked decisive 15-2 run with six straight points. He hit a three and then made three straight free throws.
Pretty soon, the Cornhuskers had opened a 101-88 lead with 55 seconds remaining, and the fans of the home team could finally breathe easier.
Nebraska (8-5) didn’t need to worry about its RPI being in jeopardy any more.
Nevertheless, UTSA (7-6) can use the game to build, with the Conference USA portion of the schedule looming next week.
“I feel really good about (our progress),” Henson said. “We were disappointed with the outcome here tonight. We had a chance. Wish we could have done a couple of things better. But like I told the guys, I like the progress we’re making.
“Guys are figuring some things out. We’re healthy. We’ve got a lot of guys playing pretty good basketball. Nick Allen’s playing with the most confidence (he’s had) in his life. He’s feeling great. We got good depth.
“We got all the pieces to make some noise in conference play. That was our message to our guys just now.”