Avery Harriman made another appearance at a Nebraska basketball postgame news conference, and this time, he posed the first question.
“Are we forgetting something? Where’s Tai?” Avery said Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. “That’s a question.”
Oh, Webster, fresh off a 13-point game in Nebraska’s 79-77 victory against Michigan State, wasn’t far behind.
But Avery started proceedings without him, anyway.
The 7-year-old son of Nebraska assistant coach Chris Harriman was among thousands of fans, most of them UNL students, wearing yellow #AveryStrong T-shirts on a day meant to honor Avery, whose leukemia is in remission, and draw awareness to pediatric cancer and the need for bone-marrow donors.
#AveryStrong Day included pregame ceremonies at midcourt with four other pediatric cancer patients.
“It was great. I saw many Avery shirts. I was so impressed,” Avery said. “I couldn’t believe everybody wore my shirts, but I was so proud. Thanks for everybody for wearing my shirts.”
Avery said his head “was about to explode” when fans replaced a pregame, back-and-forth “Husker Power!” chant with an “Avery Strong!” chant.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles and his assistants also wore #AveryStrong T-shirts, and were dressed in sneakers for Suits And Sneakers Awareness Week.
* MAN DOWN: Nebraska already knew it would be without injured forward David Rivers, who’s out 1-2 weeks with a mild knee sprain.
Miles, though, hadn’t planned on playing Saturday without Walter Pitchford. The junior forward was ejected less than 4 minutes into the game for throwing an elbow to the side of the head of Michigan State’s Matt Costello.
Officials reviewed the play and assessed Pitchford a Flagrant 2 foul, resulting in his automatic ejection.
“I thought Walt deserved to get kicked out, after seeing it,” Miles said. “He made a mistake. I know he’s sorry for that mistake. He’s being held, he looks at the ref, but you don’t do that. That’s uncalled for. That’s not us. Walt will learn from that.”
Pitchford, by Miles’ understanding, can play in Tuesday’s game at Michigan. He won’t face further suspension because he wasn’t fighting.
The game was tied after Pitchford’s departure, and then Nebraska, behind a three-pointer by Shavon Shields, went on a 10-3 run.
“I think it gave us some resolve right away,” Miles said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said Pitchford’s absence actually hurt the Spartans, in part because of the way it energized Nebraska.
“We had a game plan going in with him — nothing major, just we didn’t respond, I think,” Izzo said. “I think those big guys (Moses Abraham and Leslee Smith) did a better job of setting picks.”
* TAI’S TIME: Webster won’t lie about his recent time on Nebraska’s scout team after he was yanked from the regular playing rotation.
“It’s sucks when you’re a role player and you’re not good at it,” the sophomore guard said. “It’s just an attitude adjustment for me, really.”
Webster, after a four-game stretch in which he played 12 minutes combined, surpassed that with 16 solid minutes Tuesday against Minnesota.
He matched his season high with 28 minutes Saturday, when he scored 13 points.
Among his top plays was a crossover, step-back three-pointer in the first half that gave Nebraska a 33-20 lead.
“It has actually been a really tough experience for me,” Webster said of the past couple of weeks. “That is definitely something new. Like I said, I’m having a lot of fun now. I’ve had more fun now than I’ve ever had playing basketball at the moment.”