The Fred Hoiberg era did not begin as anticipated as UC Riverside drilled 12 3-pointers to spark a 66-47 upset of host Nebraska on Tuesday night in Lincoln, Neb.
After falling behind by nine in the season’s opening nine minutes, the Highlanders (1-0) took a four-point halftime lead and never trailed again to earn their first win over a Big Ten opponent.
Sophomore guard DJ McDonald scored a game-high 15 points while junior guard George Willborn III posted 13 points and 18 rebounds to spark a rebuilding program that hasn’t posted a winning season since 2008-09.
Nebraska (0-1), which had not lost a home opener since 1980, struggled to find consistency at either end of the floor with a roster that features just one scholarship player from last year’s 19-win team.
Sophomore point guard Cam Mack produced 11 points and nine rebounds as the Huskers converted just 29.1 percent from the field and 47.4 percent at the free-throw line.
UC Riverside forged a 7-7 tie in the first three minutes, but then Nebraska’s man-to-man clamped down and didn’t allow a point for 5:48 as the Huskers reeled off nine points in a row.
Nebraska built a 19-10 lead when freshman power forward Kevin Cross canned a 3-pointer with 11:02 left in the first half, but that’s when UC Riverside’s patient spread offense and pack man-to-man defense began to pay dividends.
The Huskers scored just nine points the rest of the half as they missed 17 of their final 20 field-goal attempts.
Meanwhile, UC Riverside sophomore guards McDonald and Dragan Elkaz knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Highlanders a 30-24 lead with 3:25 left and force Hoiberg to call his first timeout at Nebraska.
When Elkaz used his left hand to slap home freshman guard Zyon Pullin’s missed 3-pointer at the buzzer, UC Riverside took a 32-28 lead into the break.
The Highlanders’ 3-point touch became even hotter at the outset of the second half. McDonald swished three 3-pointers in a 1:43 stretch to push UC Riverside’s lead to 44-32 with 13:57 left and force Hoiberg to take another timeout.
The Huskers never got closer as they went more than seven minutes of the second half without a field goal and wound up hitting just nine of their last 46 shots.
—Field Level Media