Huskers Cruise Past the Buffs

The Nebraska men's basketball team sent senior center Aleks Maric out in style on Sunday, as the Huskers cruised past Colorado, 68-49, in Maric's final home game of the regular season at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

The big Aussie had 17 points and 16 rebounds as the Huskers picked up their 18th win of the season and improved to 7-9 in league play. With an Oklahoma State loss Sunday, the Huskers moved into a three-way tie for seventh place in the final regular-season Big 12 standings, alongside OSU and Texas Tech.

The Cornhuskers will be the No. 7 seed at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship this week at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Nebraska will play No. 10 seed Missouri on Thursday, March 13, at 6 p.m. The Huskers earned the tiebreaker over OSU and Tech, which will play in No. 8-9 matchup at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday.

As he has the past four years, Maric came up big when the Huskers needed him, helping NU race out to a 36-14 halftime lead and never looking back. After missing his first two shots from the floor, Maric posted his first basket at the 5:10 mark when he brought the crowd of 10,915 to its feet with his first 3-pointer of the season.

Maric was one of four Huskers to hit from long range, led by Paul Velander's career-high five 3-pointers. Velander, who scored a season-high 16 points off the bench, helped Nebraska to nine treys on a season-high 26 attmepts. Over the past two games, Nebraska has hit 19 3-pointers, a two-game season high.

Junior guard Steve Harley also posted 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and freshman point guard Cookie Miller made his return to the court for the first time since Feb. 23 when he sprained his right shoulder at Texas A&M. Miller came off the bench to post three assists, four rebounds and two steals in 19 minutes of action.

While the supporting cast was tremendous, the day belonged to Maric, who was honored before the game along with his parents, Stevan and Draginja. Following a senior video of Maric, the PA announcer read a letter from Maric's sisters and nephews back in Sydney, Australia, before Maric and his parents came out to a loud round of applause.

Once he hit the floor, Maric did not disappoint as he hit 6-of-11 shots from the floor for 17 points while collecting 16 rebounds, the ninth game of his career with at least 15 boards. Maric got his teammates involved early and often, as he contributed a career-high six assists without a turnover. He also paced the Huskers with three steals and two blocked shots before earning a standing ovation by the crowd as he exited the game with 2:03 remaining.

By that point, the contest had easily been decided. The Huskers held Colorado to just 14 first-half points and limited the Buffs to 34.1 percent shooting for the game, as CU scored its lowest point total against the Huskers since 1980. Nebraska hit just 40 percent in the opening half while leading by 22 points at the break, but connected on 50 percent in the second frame. 

The Huskers also dominated the glass behind Maric's effort. Nebraska earned a 38-27 rebounding advantage, including posting 13 offensive boards that led to 26 points in the paint and 10 second-chance points.  

The Huskers' defensive effort was strong from the start as they used a 9-0 run to open the contest and held CU to just one field goal until the 9:27 mark of the first period. Colorado hit just five field-goals in the opening stanza and became the third league team NU held to 14 or fewer points in the first half this season.

After six points from Colorado's Richard Roby and a Cory Higgins 3-pointer trimmed the Husker lead to nine, 20-11, Nebraska responded with an 11-0 run in less than three minutes, ignited by Maric's 3-pointer from the top of the key. Velander added a trey 40 seconds later and completed a four-point play after being fouled to push the lead to 27-11. Jay-R Strowbridge then added a free throw and Sek Henry scored a conventional three-point play to push the NU advantage to 20.

Nebraska opened the second period on a 12-4 run, culminated on Steve Harley's dunk off a nifty outlet pass from Miller, to push the lead to 30. The Huskers recorded their biggest lead of the game at 34 points, 57-23, on Maric's last basket of the game at the 10:13 mark.


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