Ahhh, the almost patented Knight tantrum. The screaming at officials, the berating of players and the constant almost fanatical intensity that has been his moniker of sorts since nearly the time he got into coaching. From chair throwing, taking bull whips to games, telling critics to kiss his posterior and picking fights with whoever happens to be bold enough to call him out, Knight's reputation is long and well chronicled. If it weren't for his three national titles with Indiana, Knight might be just another coach with a bad temper, but his success has turned that image into one of notoriety if not legend.
Sporting his oh-so-singular resume', Knight brought his hot Tech team into Devaney and the crowd couldn't have been more ready. If it wasn't the over 13 thousand spectators that told you this was something special, it was the student section that came in sporting bright orange vests commemorating Knight's hunting accident approximately 3 years ago. This was the kind of atmosphere that people expect at a football game and not a Nebraska basketball game, so Knight's presence might have been ironically what it took for NU to see what a true home-court advantage truly looks like. "I haven't been to that many games" a fan stated, "but they weren't anything like this. It was so loud at times, you couldn't hear the person next to you. If it were like this all the time, I would get season tickets. It was a lot of fun".
If people thought the atmosphere was fun, imagine how they felt as the game unfolded. Nebraska took advantage of a slow start by the Raiders marred by turnovers and surged to a half-ending lead of 4 points, but the early part of the second half was where Nebraska really took over.
Nebraska has been hindered to a great degree this season by their poor shooting percentages and it showed in the first half, but the early part of the second half proved that Nebraska can be "streaky" to the positive as a 20-6 run shooting 9-12 from the field in the early going clearly illustrates. They were as someone might say, "En Fuego". Even that run though couldn't keep fans' eyes on the game as some were still waiting for Knight to do something, anything to justify their long drive to see the coach. "I couldn't help it", a fan from Columbus said. "The more we were scoring on them and the more they couldn't do anything, I just kept staring at Knight. I thought he would do something. I was hoping he would do something. I didn't expect him to throw a chair or anything, but his team was getting killed and I wanted to see him go off."
Up and down the NU roster, contributions were many. John Robinson, Brennon Clemmons and Jake Muhliesen all scored in double figures, while Cary Cochran added a double-dose of his own scoring 19, including 5 three-pointers, 3 of which were crucial in breaking the game wide-open early in the second half. John Turek also added double-figures, but in rebounds.
Nebraska's glittering effort combined with the sloppiness of Tech players made a night possible that most probably didn't expect. Nebraska scored consecutive wins, beat a ranked team and kept Collier's home-record against Knight squarely in his favor as he is now 2-0 against the General on his own home-court, once of course with Nebraska and the first time, as head coach of Butler.
Nebraska has now turned three games in, in a row that have people thinking that NU has finally turned the corner. With a narrow loss to 11th ranked OSU and a victory over Iowa State, people are starting to forget the early part of the season, where they saw Nebraska lose to Pacific by 23 points. This 11 point victory over a ranked Tech has fans' hopes surging. "I think we have a good team", a man from here in Lincoln stated. "After a few off our losses, I didn't think we would ever do any good. I didn't know if we would win even one game in the conference." And now? "Well, we probably won't be beating Kansas anytime soon, but I think we will end up the season pretty good."
And as for Knight? Most people will forgive Knight if he didn't take off his sweater in one of his infamous tirades. They will overlook the fact that Knight didn't storm the court or grab a player in disgust. They will simply say that they were there when the General came to town and gleam even prouder of the fact that the famous coach left with another loss on his record. "I saw him yell at a player once during the game, but there wasn't much to it", Terrance from Scottsbluff stated, "but the fact that we actually won this game and in double-digits, it makes the trip worthwhile."
And what off this sell-out crowd? What off this energy that Devaney seldom has seen when the basketball team takes the court? Will they wait for another return from Knight to make the trek back to Lincoln or was this victory enough to convince them of NU's worthiness? "A team that wins makes you come back", Terrance said. "If they keep winning and over times like this, heck, I'll make the drive back. The atmosphere alone was worth it."
Thank you Mr. Knight. Turns out that you didn't just get people in the stands. You might have gotten them there to stay. You might have even sold a season a two. So, when do you come back?