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Game 'completely flipped' in disastrous second half of Huskers' loss to St. John's

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A halftime lead quickly faded for the Nebraska men's basketball team, which lost 70-50 to St. John's on Thursday in Queens, New York.

The Huskers led 27-20 at the intermission but were dominated in the second half, which started with a 14-3 run by the Johnnies.

“Just a tough game. Certainly a tough half,” Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We showed a lot of grit and a lot of fight in that first half. We were all over the place, we were first to the floor, and then the second half they flipped the script.”

Hoiberg talked before the game about the importance of the first five minutes, saying “if you can handle that pressure, generally it backs off a little bit as the game goes on.”

St. John’s, known for its pressure and physicality, lived up to its reputation Thursday. The Huskers weathered the storm early — a promising sign in Nebraska’s first true road game of the year.

Nebraska held a 4-3 lead at the game's first media timeout and the Huskers and Johnnies were still tied 6-6 nearly halfway through the first half. It was a low-scoring and ugly opening 20 minutes — missed free throws, shots and turnovers were the story on both sides.

In the first half, Nebraska converted just 11 of 32 shots, and missed 10 of its 13 three-pointers. Plus, the Huskers missed their first five free throws.

Combined, the two teams shot a combined 19-for-66 in the first half, and St. John's missed all 10 of its three-point attempts.

The Johnnies also turned the ball over 10 times, which helped Nebraska to its lead at the break.

Then the game turned.

“I thought we were the tougher team in the first half,” Hoiberg said. “We did a good job getting back in transition, even though our shots weren't falling. We battled them on the glass in that first half — then in the second half, it completely flipped.

“We started driving into the pile, we got sped up all night long, and 18 points off turnovers in the second half after three — that's what they thrive on, especially in this building.”

St. John’s had started slowly in each of its first three games but turned it on over the final 20 minutes. It did the same Thursday night.

The Johnnies opened the second half on a 14-3 run, which ballooned to 24-6. Their largest lead of the game reached 25 points. St. John's gave the Huskers fits at both ends and in one of the biggest differences between the two halves, the Johnnies went 5-for-11 from three in the second half.

Keisei Tominaga, who made 3 of 6 three-pointers, led the Huskers with 15 points. Joel Soriano and David Jones led St. John’s with 17 and 15, respectively. All 15 of Jones’ points came in the second half — including a trio of threes.

“It’s a tough night for sure. We’ll go back, learn from it and can’t let this affect the next one,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve got a tough team coming in on Sunday and need to bounce back with a great effort.”

The Huskers, who were looking to start 3-0 for the first time since the 2018-19 season, fall to 2-1. Nebraska will return home on Sunday to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m.

“The makeup of this team is they’re going to bounce back,” Hoiberg said. “There were so many positives with how we came out and threw the first punch and kept going and kept battling, even though our shots weren’t falling.

“We’ve got a lot to learn in order to play 40 minutes, play a complete game - We’ll learn the good and the bad from this one and come back and compete on Sunday.”

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