February 19, 2011
For a school that derives as much of its identity from football as Nebraska, beating a rival in basketball can never fully avenge a humbling gridiron loss.
Nonetheless, Saturday's stunning 70-67 victory over No. 3 Texas will at least provide revenge-minded Huskers fans a day or two of satisfaction.
Four months after the worst Texas football team in more than a decade still managed to upset Nebraska in Lincoln in what could be final meeting between the two teams, the Huskers finally earned some bragging rights over the Longhorns. They squandered a late 11-point lead lead in less than a minute yet never let Texas to regain control, thwarting the Longhorns' bid to take over the top spot in the AP Top 25 and edging closer to the fringes of the NCAA tournament picture.
It wasn't just defeating a top-five opponent that made Saturday's victory Nebraska's most satisfying of the season. Huskers fans consider Texas perhaps their most hated rival because of the Longhorns' controversial Big 12 title game victory over Nebraska in 2009 and the perception that schools from the Lone Star state have received preferential treatment from the league.
Before their football game against Texas last October, Huskers fans printed T-shirts that read "Beat Texas" or "It's BBQ time" in hopes that the Big Red could end an 11-year drought against the Longhorns. Some of those same T-shirts were on display Saturday afternoon as Nebraska students stormed the court in celebration of their second basketball victory over a highly ranked Texas team in three years.
In defeating a Texas team that had won its first 11 conference games by nine points or more, Nebraska notched its third straight victory to improve to 18-8 overall and 6-6 in Big 12 play. The Huskers accomplished little of note in non-league play, yet they're now in contention for an-large bid with home games against Kansas State and Missouri left in addition to winnable road matchups against Iowa State and Colorado.
It looked as though the Huskers would easily turn back Texas before a frantic late rally nearly resulted in heartbreak for the home team.
Jordan Hamilton was fouled on a 3-pointer and sank all three free throws to make it an eight-point game with 1:41 to go. Two Nebraska missed free throws and a Hamilton 3-pointer trimmed the lead to five just eight seconds later. By the time Nebraska surrendered a putback of a missed free throw for a layup and then two free throws after throwing away the ensuing inbound pass, the score was tied at 65 with 1:05 still left to play.
Nebraska somehow managed to regain its composure, regaining the lead on a pair of free throws from Brandon Richardson and then getting a much-needed defensive stop. Hamilton missed a go-ahead 3-pointer and J'Covan Brown missed one that could have tied it at the buzzer, sealing Nebraska's first win over a top-three opponent since a victory over Missouri in the 1994 Big Eight tournament.
As good a win as that one was, this may have been even sweeter.