It’d be easy to point to the first-half field-goal drought of 8 minutes, 14 seconds, or the 3-of-19 shooting from three-point range, and blame either for Nebraska’s troubles on the basketball court Saturday night.
Fact is, though, the Huskers’ first loss of the season, 74-60 to Kent State before 5,947 fans at the Devaney Sports Center, can easily be blamed on the other side of the ball.
“It was a lot to do with our defense,” Nebraska senior guard Dylan Talley said. “We didn’t have the same intensity we usually have, and that we have to have if we want to win any game.
“It’s not how we practiced. That’s on the players, and me as a senior. We got to do better than that. There’s no excuse for us to come like that. No excuse. We got to do better.”
Kent State, which shot 57.1 percent from the field, executed its offense to near perfection, getting the ball in the paint, mostly by dribble penetration, with relative ease throughout the night.
“I can question our effort all I want,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said, “but at the end of the day, they (the Golden Flashes) made some great plays, I thought they executed really well.”
Chris Evans scored 19 points to lead three Golden Flashes in double figures. That included 16 points from reserve forward Darren Goodson, who entered the game averaging 3 points on 4-of-19 shooting for the season.
Saturday, Goodson, a junior college transfer, was 8-of-10 from the field.
Talley scored a career-high 27 points, and Brandon Ubel added 17, but Nebraska (4-1) shot just 9-for-27 in the second half and 39.2 percent for the game.
“We missed some shots, and I think some of our guys, they let their offensive performance, or lack of it, affect their defensive effort. You could just see wheels turning,” Miles said.
“I question our mental readiness, and I have to put that on me. I actually thought we had practiced all right.”
Nebraska’s first-half drought came after Kent State switched to a zone defense. But Talley and Ubel, who combined for 28 points in the first half, began attacking that zone in the final 2:24 of the half.
Ubel drew two fouls, and Talley had three driving baskets, as Nebraska took a 33-32 halftime lead after trailing by five points.
But the Huskers had turnovers on three of five possessions to start the second half, and Kent State went on a 9-2 run to take the lead for good.
“Instead of responding with a little more edge or intensity,” Miles said, “I think we kind of go downhill.”
Talley’s jumper pulled Nebraska to 50-49 with 10:48 remaining, but Kent State (4-2) finished the game with a 24-11 run.
“This was a great team effort for us, coming on the road and getting the win against a Big Ten school,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “We haven’t done that in a long time, and we have a pretty good program, but winning on the road against a Big Ten school doesn’t happen often for us. Great win for us and our program.”
* Nebraska freshman Shavon Shields did not play. Miles said Shields, who’s recovering from an infection in his elbow, was a “late scratch” after his elbow didn’t respond favorably following Wednesday’s game, Shields’ first action of the season.
KENT STATE 74, NEBRASKA 60
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Three-pointers—5-8 (Ortiz 2-2, Thomas 1-1, Holt 2-4, Goodson 0-1). Field-goal percentage—57.1. Free throw percentage—72.2. Team fouls—21. Fouled out—Henniger. Assists—7 (Holt 4). Turnovers—8. Steals—5 (Evans 2). Blocked shots—1 (Pope).
Three-pointers—3-19 (Ubel 0-1, Parker 0-1, Gallegos 1-8, Talley 2-6, Rivers 0-3). Field-goal percentage—39.2. Free-throw percentage—65.4. Team fouls—18. Assists—6 (Talley 3). Turnovers—9. Steals—3 (Gallegos 2). Blocked shots—3 (Rivers 2).