Terran Petteway scored a career-high 28 points to lead five Huskers in double-figure scoring, but the Nebraska men’s basketball team couldn't overcome foul trouble in a 96-90 loss to Massachusetts in Thursday’s first round of the Charleston Classic in Charleston, S.C.
The teams combined for 61 fouls and 82 free throws, and three Huskers fouled out. Nebraska had three starters with four fouls apiece only five minutes into the second half.
Still, Nebraska, which trailed by 13 points with 8:24 remaining, cut the deficit to 93-90 on Tai Webster’s layup with 28.3 seconds to play.
The Huskers forced a turnover in the backcourt, but David Rivers missed a layup with 23 seconds to play, and Massachusetts hung on to improve to 4-0.
Massachusetts scored on 20 of its first 26 possessions of the second half en route to shooting 58.6 percent after halftime. Guard Derrick Gordon, who led six Minutemen in double-figure scoring with 20 points, led the barrage, as Massachusetts repeatedly attacked the rim, either getting layups, drawing fouls, or both.
“It was embarrassing, to me, because at the end of the day, we've got to rim protect,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said on his postgame radio show. “Unfortunately, it falls on Walter (Pitchford), it falls on Leslee (Smith), but it’s not just those two guys. It’s everybody.”
Smith, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward, had 12 points and 10 rebounds, but Pitchford, a 6-10, 230-pound forward, fouled out in only 13 minutes of play. He had five points and two rebounds, and joined Petteway and Deverell Biggs on the bench with five fouls.
“We've got to guard the ball better, first of all, and if we can stay out of trouble and be able to play bigger, that will help,” Miles said.
Massachusetts held a 42-37 rebounding advantage and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds.
“With the foul trouble, we couldn't get big enough to handle the boards,” Miles said. “I’m short a big. We know this. Unfortunately, we never got rebounding under control. They got half their misses. That’s a terrible defensive rebounding percentage.”
Petteway, a 6-7 sophomore wing, was 7-of-19 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free-throw line, as Nebraska shot 29-of-39 on free throws. Massachusetts was 33-of-43.
Nebraska had only six assists despite scoring 90 points for the first time since Dec. 29, 2009. It’s the first time the Huskers have scored 90 points in a game and lost since a 105-91 loss at Texas on Jan. 21, 1998.
Nebraska (3-1) plays Alabama-Birmingham at 11 a.m. Friday. Alabama-Birmingham fell to New Mexico 97-94 in two overtimes.
“We just have to find a way to bounce back,” Miles said. “It’s so important to get your bearings under you, get past your disappointment, be a resilient team, let today’s sins be forgiven and go out and try to find a way to be effective tomorrow.”