Published Friday, November 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm / Updated at 11:50 pm
Huskers money in Pinnacle Bank Arena opener

LINCOLN — Nebraska doesn't christen new basketball venues very often. When it has, things have tended not to go well.

The Huskers opened the NU Coliseum in 1926 with a loss. They opened the Devaney Center in 1976 with a loss.

That all changed Friday night — on the court and off — in the opening of Pinnacle Bank Arena.

NU hammered last year's NCAA tournament darling Florida Gulf Coast 79-55, never trailing and never being threatened in front of a raucous crowd. The paid attendance was 15,119.

Aged rocker Tommy Lee mixed music before the game, rock duo Karmin sang the national anthem and the Husker marching band performed on the floor in full uniform amid a blaze of spotlights.

With all that going on, Nebraska coach Tim Miles had to get his team's attention in a pregame speech.

“I told our guys, 'Listen. There are rock and roll stars out there. I don't know what's going on, like lights and fireworks,' ” he said.

“But you are the show tonight. But you're only the show if you play. You've got to play great. And you've got to do it every possession over and over. And I really think they did it.”

The Huskers shot 58.3 percent in the first half and built leads as big as 18 points.

Florida Gulf Coast trailed 39-27 at halftime, and any comeback hopes ended with seven turnovers in the first eight minutes of the second half. That rash of FGCU mistakes came in the midst of a stretch of 6 minutes, 41 seconds without a field goal.

Nebraska used those mistakes and that dry spell to extend the lead to 25 points, 59-34, with 11:56 to go. The game was little more than a scrimmage after that.
New FGCU coach Joe Dooley said he wasn't shocked, even though the Eagles return four starters from a 26-win team.

“We have a long, long way to go,” Dooley said. “The success last year was amazing, but no one cares now.

“Nebraska didn't care. They showed up and punched us right in the head.”

It's true.

The Huskers held “Dunk City,” the nickname FGCU picked up last year with its fast-breaking style, to zero dunks while getting two themselves.

The first basket in Pinnacle Bank Arena appropriately came on a bank shot, though from an unorthodox place. Forward Terran Petteway banked in a 3-pointer just to the right of the top of the key.

Nebraska went on to early leads of 6-1, 12-5 and 21-13. Four of the first seven field goals were 3-pointers.

From there, after three empty possessions for both teams, the Huskers caught fire.

They scored on six straight possessions to bolt to a 33-17 lead with 5:08 to go in the half. Sophomore forward Shavon Shields had eight points in that spurt while David Rivers added four.

Shields led all scorers with 28 points, making 8 of 13 field goals and 12 of 12 free throws. He fell one point short of matching his career high of 29 set last year at Penn State.

“It was a great team effort and a great win to start the opening of the new arena,” he said, citing the crowd for getting the Huskers get off to a fast start. “We were feeding off the fans and the energy in the place. That kind of catapulted us.”

Nebraska shot 52.1 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point range and 77.4 percent from the free-throw line. The Huskers blew out to a 34-point lead at 76-42 with 5:17 to play.

Miles kept coming back to the word “sound” to describe NU's performance.

“We haven't always shown that in practice,” he said. “We played better than we've practiced.”

* * *

Video: Recap of Nebraska's win:

Video: Karmin sings the National Anthem

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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