CINCINNATI — Nebraska went from in the game against Cincinnati with 9:39 left on Saturday to out of contention within five minutes.
In that span, the Bearcats exploded on an 18-4 run and rolled to a 74-59 men’s basketball win in front of 8,257 fans at Fifth Third Arena.
The loss, in the final nonconference game, drops Nebraska’s record to 8-4.
“The kids fought hard,” Husker coach Tim Miles said on his radio show. “But we’ve got to figure out how to win these games.
“We lost because we fouled too much and we didn’t put together a complete offensive night in the paint.”
NU trailed by eight points at halftime and was down by as many as 10 before mounting a comeback. Back-to-back 3-pointers from sophomore Terran Petteway with 11:02 and 9:39 left cut the gap to 47-44.
Petteway led all scorers with 22 points, 19 of which came in the second half.
At that point, though, all five second-half Nebraska field goals were 3-pointers.
The Huskers made only one 3 the rest of the game, and had only one field goal — from guard Ray Gallegos, who had 18 points — during the Cincinnati run.
Nebraska hit 9 of 20 3-pointers, but frontcourt players Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford were a combined 2 of 16 from the field.
Only 6-foot-8 forward Leslee Smith, with eight points and four rebounds, had much success inside against Cincinnati’s front court, which blocked six shots.
“We didn’t play in the paint very well with their length and athleticism,” Miles said. “It’s one of those games where you’ve got to be a little crafty when you get in there.
“You can’t just take it up. You can’t just play on one foot. We had some guys drive and try to put it up off one foot instead of driving, throwing up a shot fake, maybe pivot into a move or maybe a kickout.”
Shields, averaging 13.6 points a game, scored his only two points with 3:59 left in the game. Nebraska had made 10 straight free throws until the 2:07 mark, when Shields missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have cut the deficit to eight.
“We all know,” Miles said, “that we’re one or maybe two lengthy guys away from being where we need to be. In my book, Petteway is probably a 2-guard and Shavon is probably a 3, and we could use a couple of more 4s or a 5 and a 4.”
Defensively, Nebraska did a strong job on Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick, the American Athletic Conference’s leading scorer at 18.9 a game.
Kilpatrick made only 2 of 13 shots. But the 6-4 fullback look-alike used his bulk to draw enough fouls to hit 17 of 18 free throws and finish with 21 points.
His 17 made free throws were one short of the Nebraska opponent record of 18 set by Wilt Chamberlain of Kansas in 1958.
Cincinnati (11-2), as expected, outrebounded Nebraska 40-30. The Bearcats, fourth nationally in scoring defense at 55.4 points, held their 20th consecutive opponent to less than 70 points.
Nebraska opens Big Ten play at 6 p.m. Tuesday at No. 22 Iowa (11-2), a team Miles described as deeper and much more skilled than Cincinnati.