The Nebraska men's basketball team earned its 74-67 win over South Florida on Wednesday, using a renewed attitude and good energy to outlast the Bulls and finish third in the Cayman Islands Classic.
But a little prayer didn't hurt either.
Haanif Cheatham scored a career-high 26 points, and Dachon Burke added 21 with a pair of massive three-pointers in the final four minutes as the Huskers rallied after Tuesday's 85-66 loss to George Mason.
Burke's three-pointers, which both came with less than four minutes left after South Florida had cut an eight-point Nebraska lead to one, helped the Huskers hang on to momentum.
"Burke's two threes, when I saw him let them, go, I was like, 'Please go in; please go in,' Cheatham said after the game. "God was listening, and they went in. Those were two clutch shots that we needed, and they probably won us the game."
Cheatham did his part, too, finishing off a strong three-game run by going 8-for-11 from the field and 9-for-11 at the free-throw line. He scored 11 points in the first half to keep the Huskers within two at the break, then helped spark NU's transition game in the final 20 minutes.
Cheatham averaged 19.3 points in three tournament games, and was named to the Cayman Islands Classic all-tournament team.
"Haanif stepped up, man," Burke said. "Haanif's been stepping up a lot. The first couple games (of the season) I told him — you're good, man, it's a long season. I feel like since then he's been playing his best games. I'm happy, I'm proud of him, I love him."
Nebraska's two guards helped spark a 15-2 second-half run for the Huskers, who trailed by as many as eight in the first 20 minutes.
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After Burke's two triples, Nebraska was able to keep the lead at four points or more the rest of the way. The Huskers shot 55% from the field, 43% from three-point range, and most importantly, 74% (14-for-19) at the free-throw line.
Bigger than any statistics, though, Nebraska showed some fight in recovering from a poor performance Tuesday night while playing its third game in three days.
"It was a good tournament for us, especially to get two of these three wins," NU coach Fred Hoiberg said during his postgame interview on the Husker Sports Radio Network. "It was awesome to see our guys bounce back after a difficult game last night and respond with great energy."
Cheatham and Burke were the only Nebraska players in double figures. Cam Mack, who came off the bench for the first time this season, finished with five points, four rebounds and seven assists.
David Collins led South Florida with 16 points while Laquincy Rideau, who was on the Gardner-Webb team that beat Nebraska in 2016 before transferring, finished with 15 points.
South Florida (3-4) outrebounded Nebraska 39-29, including 17-3 on the offensive glass. That led to the Bulls having a 15-2 advantage in second-chance points and 21 more shot attempts than NU.
The Huskers countered that by shooting 61% in the second half.
"This is a very good defensive team. They only give up 60 per night. So to come out and be as efficient as we were, I think speaks volumes to the way the guys got the ball moving around, much better than it was last night," Hoiberg said. "And hopefully we build on this and see how effective we can be when we get it moving side to side."
Nebraska is now off until Dec. 4, when it travels to Georgia Tech for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
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