Nebraska's final nonconference game turned into a little more than a tune-up for Big Ten play.
Brandon Ubel led Nebraska with 18 points against Nicholls State.
The Huskers never trailed and led by as many as 19 early in the second half before outlasting Nicholls State (1-9) 68-59 in Lincoln on Saturday.
Senior forward Brandon Ubel led Nebraska with 18 points and five rebounds, while Dylan Talley and David Rivers added 12 points each and Ray Gallegos added 10 points for the Huskers who closed the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 9-4 record.
Nebraska used tough defense to jump out to a comfortable lead over the Colonels in the first half, taking a 31-17 lead into the locker room. But as it has done at various points this season, Nebraska relaxed defensively and it came back to bite the Huskers.
"I don’t know what happens mentally for us, but we just kind of relax," said Ubel, who finished 10 of 11 from the free throw line. "I’m not sure why. We’ve got to get that fixed and we’ve got to put together 40 minutes, because things are about to get real here in about three days."
Nebraska's lead began to dwindle in front of a Devaney Center crowd of 8,174. Nebraska led 51-35 with 8:42 left following an Andre Almeida layup, but after that point Nebraska looked similar to the way it did against Jacksonville St. Tim Miles said he told his players to not play like it did in that game, a decision he said he regretted after the game.
"I had an issue with mentality, with aggressiveness and confidence. I think when you get punched, you just kind of freeze up, and I think that’s what happened. As a coach, that doesn’t matter. For instance, in the last minute and a half, you didn’t have to run an offense. You just had to complete the first pass and hope that those seven-of-eight free throws you just missed flips the other way for you, which it did. You’ve got to get those guys in a competitive mode and they have to build confidence. I don’t think we did that today and that’s what’s disappointing about the effort.”
Nicholls State kept chipping away at Nebraska's lead. While the Huskers went cold late in the second half, Nicholls State scored eight unanswered points, punctuated by a 3-pointer by T.J. Carpenter with 59 seconds left that cut the Nebraska lead to 58-54.
But Nebraska went 10 for 10 from the free throw line to extend its lead and claim the victory.
"These kids nowadays with AAU are a part of a larger societal problem," Miles said. "They play so many games. When I was a kid, if you missed a practice or a game, that crushed you and broke your heart. That’s not the case anymore. Now we’re playing games all the time from whatever game on. Life’s just a big game. That’s not what it’s really about. Truly, every possession has to matter to you. When things get tight, you have to eliminate fear, worry and doubt. I don’t think we did that in any way, shape or form.”