Shatel: For one night, hoops heaven in Nebraska -
Published Monday, January 20, 2014 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:54 am
Shatel: For one night, hoops heaven in Nebraska

LINCOLN — Oh, what a night.

This was an unbelievable night. It was a night of two games, two victories, two statements.

Creighton 96, No. 4 Villanova 68.

Nebraska 68, No. 17 Ohio State 62.

Side by side on your Twitter feed. Side by side in your sports bar. Side by side in the headlines.

According to World-Herald research, this was the first time Nebraska and Creighton have beaten ranked teams on the same day.

Read it and tweet, Dickie Vitale.

The college hoops icon did just that after this night of nights.

Not long after watching Husker students storm the Pinnacle Bank Arena court for the first time, Vitale tweeted, “Jubilation in LINCOLN — Hoops king forget the pigskin.”

Then, a few minutes later, Vitale paid homage to the first-place Creighton Bluejays: “Creighton routs Villanova 96-68. Can't believe the margin — who would ever believe the Cats would get beat @ home by 28?”

Ethan Wragge, that's who.

Oh, what a night. I didn't even get a chance to check in on the Jays' battle with 'Nova. Minutes after sitting down on press row at PBA, someone said, “Creighton's up 15-3. Five straight 3s.”

Before I could say “Lumberjack,” the news came back, “Make it seven. It's 21 now.”

Nebraska hadn't tipped off yet, and I was suddenly wishing a writer could be in two places at the same time.

Then Huskers-Buckeyes began and I was suddenly engrossed in whether Tim Miles' bunch could scratch out an upset in front of the second-largest crowd in Husker Hoops history.

They were loud. Oh, wait. That's the Nebraska football team on the court, throwing mini-balls and shirts into the crowd.

It would get louder.

NU was up 17-14 at the 9:32 media timeout. My good friend Joe Juliano, the Villanova beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, sent me a note saying he had a seat saved for me and was sorry I chose to cover the Nebraska game.

Sorry, Joe. My private jet is in the shop.

Unless the Creighton game was in Philadelphia, Neb., I was staying close to home. It's 1,263.6 miles from O Street to Broad Street. Or, about the distance of one of Wragge's nine 3-pointers on Monday night.

A lady at the concession stand at PBA ordered a Philly steak sandwich. Does that count?

But Philly wasn't the only place for action on Monday night. Nebraska had a 14-point lead over Ohio State, which had been ranked as high as No. 3 earlier this season. The Bucks started playing some defense in the second half and stormed back to take a one-point lead.

Then the Huskers found two things. One, why Ohio State has now lost four straight Big Ten games: As talented as Ohio State is, the Bucks can't shoot a lick. They were 21 of 53 overall and made 6 of 21 from 3-point range.

Hey, Thad Matta, there's this kid from Minnesota named Wragge ...

The other thing NU discovered, or rediscovered, was a kid named Shavon Shields. The slashing forward who made such a splash last year found his groove, going for 18 points and nine rebounds. Terran Petteway drove to the hoop for 18 points and overcame eight turnovers.

Nice to see Mr. Shields again. Truth be told, I also wanted to see Ohio State senior Aaron Craft, one of the top defensive guards to come around college hard courts in a while.

Craft ended up leading OSU in scoring with 12. That was a bad sign for the Bucks.

The other significant plays involving Craft weren't so hot, either. He was called for a charge after knocking over Shields. Yes, they still call charges in college hoops. I'm sure Craft was shocked, too.

Then there was the play of the second half, when Deverell Biggs picked Mr. Craft's pocket near midcourt and went down for a layup that gave NU the lead for good, 47-46 with 4:42 left.

By that time, the Jays were well on their way to one of the school's biggest wins — beating No. 4 on the road. The last time CU beat a team ranked that high was when coach Red McManus' bunch took down No. 4 Arizona State.

This was NU's first win over a ranked team since Doc Sadler's last team beat Indiana two years ago at the Devaney Center.

These were statement wins for different reasons. Creighton won on the court of a traditional Big East team in a game for first place in the league. This was clearly the biggest win for Miles, who is 9-8 in his second year and needed some proof for his team and an excited, loud 15,342 that progress is on the way. This is not a great Ohio State team, but it's still Ohio State.

Meanwhile, because of the arena configuration, NU students had to wait in line for the final minute of the game before they could rush the court.

Nobody's forgetting the pigskin. But on this incredible night, hoops was king.

» Richard Sherman's act after Sunday's game isn't my cup of joe. But it's not the total picture of the man. I read a lot about Sherman on Monday, including a column he writes for Peter King's MMQB blog. He's an intelligent man, with a lot to say. He'll have the pulpit the next two weeks before the Super Bowl. The world will be listening. There's a role model in there somewhere. I hope Sherman shows us that guy.

» No Cox Classic is a bummer for our sports burg. But the fact that the PGA Tour couldn't find a local course to take it tells me the Tour has run its course here. Country clubs no longer feel that the money and exposure are worth giving up their course for a week. Same for the public courses. There was talk about Firethorn in Lincoln hosting. Maybe somebody will make a run at it in 2015. I think you'd see the clubs and courses line up to host the old guys. Just my opinion.

» What do you give the icon who has almost everything? For Doug McDermott, an attention-grabbing NCAA win. And a rival. Doug might get that NCAA win this year. But he won't have a rival, the kind that brings the best out in a great player, the kind that helps lift up a legend. Wichita State was that rival. I don't see one in the Big East. Not yet. Probably not this year.

» Can't we arrange a pick-up game between Creighton and Wichita State. Say, in Kansas City?

» Charlton Warren looks like a solid hire for Bo Pelini. Lot of experience, some recruiting ties in the South. But his impact will be in the long term, unless he coaches special teams or turnovers.

» I don't know about the future of Husker Hockey. Will the fans come from the men's basketball pool? Will NU have to add a women's sport or two? This might be on a drawing board somewhere, but for now, Husker Hoops needs all of the department's resources and attention.

» The take-away from last week's NCAA convention in San Diego, besides a sun tan, is that the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 will soon be making their own rules.

What does that mean? Everything from a stipend paid to student-athletes to scholarship limits and recruiting calendars to allowing kids to keep money from autograph and jersey sales will be on the table.

If and when that day comes, here's something to watch. If Nebraska (Big Ten) and Creighton (Big East) are recruiting the same player, the Huskers would be able to offer the kid extra money in a stipend attached to his scholarship. That would be pretty hard to pass up.

The Big East is a major basketball conference, but without football money, it's not going to be part of this club.

» One more and I'm outta here: If we're getting close to football signing day, it must be that time of year. I'm decommitting from my diet.

* * *

Video: Creighton makes nine straight 3-pointers

Video: Recap of Creighton's win over Villanova

Video: Interview with Ethan Wragge and coach Greg McDermott

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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