The rush of adrenaline got the best of Ray Gallegos.
He’d just made a crowd-rousing three-pointer, sparking a game-turning run toward the end of the first half Monday, and the Nebraska junior guard let out a scream as he got in the grill of the guy guarding him, Jio Fontan.
We’re talking nose-to-nose, might-want-a-breath-mint close.
“He was just talking to me a little bit beforehand, so it was more of a moment type of thing, I guess,” Gallegos said. “I didn’t really mean nothing by it.”
Did Gallegos get his point across?
“I think so,” he said with a big smile.
That was one of Gallegos’ career-high six three-pointers in Nebraska’s 63-51 victory against USC before a season-high crowd of 8,491 at the Devaney Sports Center.
Gallegos scored 20 points, equaling the career high he set in last week’s victory at Wake Forest, and was 6-of-10 on three-pointers.
“I started off slow, but just like last game, my teammates, especially Brandon (Ubel), just told me to keep being aggressive, and it will come,” Gallegos said. “That’s what I try to do.”
Gallegos didn’t score until his 11-point outburst in the final 4:02 of the first half, when he made three three-pointers and added another jump shot off an inbounds play.
“What Ray Gallegos did at the end of the first half was probably the difference of the game,” said USC coach Kevin O’Neill, whose team led by four points in the first half, and had the game tied at 22.
“And then he went on that tirade of shots that gave them a good boost. Nebraska is playing good basketball and they have veteran guys. They are playing well together. I commend Nebraska; they deserved to win the game.”
Nebraska outscored USC 17-2 to end the first half and begin the second half, holding the Trojans without a field goal for more than 10 minutes in that span. The Huskers led by as many as 20 points.
All of this came with New Zealand recruit Tai Webster and his parents two rows behind NU coach Tim Miles. Nebraska’s student section let out a couple of “We want Webster!” chants, and the four-star recruit responded with a smile.
It wasn’t his only smile of the game, either. Nor was he the only one smiling, as Nebraska improved to 6-1 heading into Thursday’s intrastate rivalry home game with Creighton.
“I thought we just had a nice hop in our step,” Miles said. “We really practiced well yesterday, and I thought the crowd was great.”
Nebraska had rough patches. The Huskers committed a season-high 15 turnovers, including 10 in the first half. They had seven on nine possessions, including four straight, as USC used an 11-2 run to take an 18-14 lead.
“They played tough defense,” said Husker senior guard Dylan Talley, who scored 14 points, but also had five turnovers.
“We got to do a better job – especially myself – of being ball tough. Just because people pressure us is not a reason for us to turn it over. But they did pressure hard, and did cause some bad things to happen.”
Quipped Miles of the key to Nebraska’s mid-game run:
“We threw passes to our teammates.”
That, combined with Gallegos’ hot hand, of course.
“I’m proud of Ray. He’s worked so hard,” Miles said. “Fontan was all over him. That kid is quick and didn’t give him very many looks in general, and then good looks. And Ray, every time he got one, it felt like he made ‘em pay.
“He’s worked really hard and deserves to have this kind of success.”
* Freshman Shavon Shields scored his first career points, and became only the eighth Nebraska player to score this season.
* Gallegos has 23 three-pointers in seven games. He had 21 career three-pointers in two seasons entering this year.
* Senior Andre Almeida was honored Monday as the Big Ten player of the week following his performance against Wake Forest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Almeida recorded his first career double-double with 20 points and a career-high 11 rebounds in the Huskers' 79-63 win at Wake Forest. He connected on 9 of 10 shots and blocked three shots. Almeida was the first Big Ten player since 2009 to score at least 20 points on 90 percent shooting and grab 10 rebounds.
NEBRASKA 63, USC 51
Three-pointers--4-8 (Fontan 1-2, Terrell 3-5, Stewart 0-1). Field-goal percentage--38.3. Free throw percentage--78.6. Team fouls--14. Assists--10 (Fontan, Wesley 3). Turnovers--15. Steals--8 (Fontan, Terrell, Wesley 2). Blocked shots--5 (Wesley 3).
Three-pointers--11-17 (Parker 1-1, Gallegos 6-10, Talley 3-5, Rivers 1-1). Field-goal percentage--44.0. Free throw percentage--72.7. Team fouls--14. Assists--12 (Ubel 4). Turnovers--15. Steals--6 (Gallegos 2, Talley 2). Blocked shots--6 (ALmeida 3).