LINCOLN, Neb. – When Nebraska and Missouri met in Columbia on Jan. 24, a stingy Tigers’ defense shut down the Huskers’ 3-point shooting.
When the same teams met for their Big 12 Conference rematch in Devaney Sports Center, the antithesis occurred.
Lackluster Tigers defense and subsequent lapses created wide-open shot after wide-open shot for the Huskers in their 78-62 win.
“They got a couple easy ones, and once they got going, it was hard for them to miss with the crowd and the energy of the game,” senior guard Rickey Paulding said.
“We knew their personnel. We knew what team they were as far as shooting. You just got to take that stuff away.”
The Tigers, though, took little away from senior forward Brian Conklin and junior guard Marcus Neal. They combined to make 9-of-9 3-pointers. The Huskers, who entered shooting a Big 12-best 39 percent from behind the 3-point line, made 12-of-21.
Nebraska coach Barry Collier said Conklin and Neal’s shooting was a product of the team’s aggressiveness and intensity.
“They’re both very good shooters,” Collier said. “The thing that happened is that in Marcus’ case, he was able to hit some shots at the end of the shot clock. I thought Brian’s basket in the second half opened things up and started a little run there.”
Two weeks ago, Collier said Tiger freshman Thomas Gardner’s key 3-pointers opened up the game in the Tigers’ 72-51 win.
Conklin did most of his damage in the second half. After scoring one 3-pointer in the first half, he finished with a game-high 17 points, but the first-half 3-pointer stopped a 6-0 Tiger run with 4:39 left.
Conklin opened the second half with a 3-pointer and scored the Huskers’ final field goal, a 3-pointer with 3:38 left. His final 3-pointer gave the Huskers a 74-55 lead.
“We ran a lot of traps and gave up a lot of open looks, and they were knocking them down,” senior forward Josh Kroenke said. “They weren’t missing too many shots, and when a team gets hot like that in their own building, they’re hard to guard.”
Conklin finished 5-of-5 on 3-pointers.
The Huskers had struggled with their shot in their previous two games. Against Oklahoma on Feb. 1, they made 38 percent from the field, and against Kansas State on Wednesday, the Huskers missed 8-of-33 3-pointers.
Neal had the hot hand early, for he scored nine consecutive points for the Huskers in the first nine minutes. The third 3-pointer in the stretch gave the Huskers a 14-4 lead with 11:47 left. Neal made all of his four attempts.
Jake Muhleisen, Andrew Drevo and Nate Johnson contributed one 3-pointer as well.
3s are Tigers' weakness
The Tigers, before the game, ranked 11th in the Big 12 in 3-point field goal defense, allowing 38 percent.
With the Huskers not missing, the Tigers couldn’t keep up.
“I don’t think we’re getting a lot of easy looks,” Missouri coach Quin Snyder said. “With the exception of our post game, we’re not breaking people down where we get good clean looks from 3, and when we have been, I don’t have an answer for the shooting.”
Snyder said when his team did get a look, the team put too much pressure on its 3-pointers because it wasn’t getting stops on defense. The Tigers hit 5-of-15 attempts.
Gardner, who made 3-of-5 3-pointers in the first matchup with Nebraska, could not find his shot Saturday. He misfired on his four attempts.
“When we play defense and have a lot of energy and emotion, our shots come a lot easier,” Gardner said. “That’s just something we didn’t have (Saturday). Our shots weren’t falling, and we didn’t have the same usual energy we have at home.”
Coaching against caner
To recognize the National Coaches vs. Cancer Awareness Day, the Missouri and Nebraska coaching staffs wore sneakers with their suits. They were among numerous coaches around the country participating.
“(Saturday) was a chance to bring attention to (the National Association of Basketball Coaches’) fight against cancer,” Collier said. “It’s a horrible disease, and anybody that has had family or friends go through that, you feel helpless. So we do what we can to encourage people to support cancer research.”
The coaches’ shoes, though, did not go well with their suits. Snyder’s all-white shoes with his navy blue suit looked better than Collier’s red and white basketball shoes and gray suit. The Coaches vs. Cancer program has raised millions of dollars in the past decade.
Despite his team’s strong performance, Collier said he would not wear the shoes again to prolong his team’s luck.
Super streak snapped
The Husker’s win snapped Missouri’s six-game series winning streak. Neither school has had longer than a six-game winning streak.
The Tigers have had four six-game streaks, and the Huskers have had three. The most recent time the Huskers won six consecutive was Dec. 27, 1965 to Jan. 13, 1968.
The teams have met 201 times with the Tigers leading 117-84.