Despite a career-high 29 points from sophomore Terran Petteway, Nebraska suffered its first loss of the season, dropping a 96-90 decision to UMass Thursday afternoon at the Charleston Classic.
Petteway, a sophomore transfer from Texas Tech, paced five Huskers in double figures with 29 points, including 11-of-12 from the foul line, to pace five Nebraska players in double figures in a game which saw both teams combine for 81 free throws.
Nebraska, which had three of its starters saddled with four fouls at the 15-minute mark of the second half, nearly overcame a 13-point deficit down the stretch. Nebraska trailed 80-67 with 8:24 left, but the Huskers went on a 20-7 spurt to pull within 89-87 with 1:44 left after a pair of Tai Webster free throws.
The Huskers (3-1) then had a chance to tie in the final 30 seconds after Webster’s basket made it 93-90. After a timeout, Benny Parker and Tai Webster forced a Minuteman turnover under its basket, but Nebraska was unable to convert, missing a pair of shots before UMass got the rebound. UMass (4-0) put the game away at the foul line, as Derrick Gordon split a pair from the line before Chaz Williams hit two free throws with seven seconds left for the final margin.
Gordon led six UMass players in double figures with 20 points, as the Minutemen shot 50 percent from the floor and went 33-of-43 from the foul line. NU did a good job of controlling Williams, as the two-time All-Atlantic-10 point guard had just 10 points and three assists.
Nebraska’s bench joined Petteway in keeping the Huskers in the contest, as Leslee Smith had 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots in 27 minutes, while David Rivers had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting and a career-high four steals.
UMass got off to a quick start, opening the game with an 11-3 spurt to take an eight point before the Huskers fought back behind the play of Shavon Shield and Petteway. Shields scored five straight points, as the Huskers outscored UMass 18-7 to take a 21-18 lead after a Smith putback.
The Minutemen came right back, using a 10-2 spurt behind the play of Sampson Carter, who scored six of his nine points to help stake UMass a 28-22 lead. Nebraska fell behind by as many as eight points, at 32-24, before Petteway and Rivers led Nebraska back. The pair combined for all 13 points in a 13-4 run as Nebraska took a 37-36 lead after a Petteway free throw. Nebraska led 39-38 after a Smith basket, but a Cody LaLanne basket a pair of free throws from Seth Berger put UMass ahead 42-39 at the break.
Nebraska’s slow start to the second half proved costly, as UMass scored six straight points to take a 48-39 lead after a Williams 3-pointer. More importantly, the Huskers got in foul trouble, as Walter Pitchford, Shields and Petteway all got into foul trouble in the opening five minutes of the half. NU trailed 60-49 with 14:59 left with all three starters on the sideline with four fouls.
Nebraska’s bench proved valuable at that point, as NU was also without Ray Gallegos, who suffered an injury early in the second half. Smith hit two quick baskets while Deverell Biggs and David Rivers kept the Huskers within shouting distance. Pitchford’s 3-pointer with 11:13 left cut the deficit to 70-65, but the sophomore would foul out on UMass’ next possession. That play began 7-0 spurt which put the Huskers in a 13-point hole.