Earning its 10th straight first-round home win in the National Invitation Tournament, Nebraska improved to 20-12 on the season, making the 2007-08 Husker squad just the 12th in 112 years of Nebraska basketball to earn 20 wins. The victory, which came in front of a boisterous crowd of more than 9,400, moves the Huskers on to a second-round matchup with Mississippi on Monday, March 24. The Huskers and Rebels will faceoff in Oxford, Miss., but the time and television arrangements have not been announced yet.
The Huskers held Charlotte, which finished its season with a 20-14 record, to 31.5 percent shooting on the game, as the 49ers hit just 17-of-54 shots from the field, including only 6-of-29 from 3-point range. It was the sixth time NU held a non-conference opponent to under 35 percent shooting, and the eighth time overall on the season. It was the second time in three games Nebraska held a team to under 32 percent shooting.
Nebraska did a tremendous job in containing explosive guard Leemire Goldwire, who came into the game averaging 19.0 points per contest and 3.8 treys per game, the ninth-best 3-point average in the country. Goldwire was frustrated into 2-of-13 shooting, including hitting just 2-of-9 from 3-point range, while scoring just six points. He needed six 3-pointers to set the school record, but fell four short against the stiffling Husker defense.
Lamont Mack led the way for Charlotte with 13 points and Charlie Coley added 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, but it was not enough to get past the Huskers who had four players score at least nine points in the game. Ade Dagunduro led the way with 15 points, his highest total since recording a season-high 17 points against Western Kentucky. It marked the second straight game Dagunduro, a junior college transfer, led the team in scoring.
Jay-R Strowbridge came off the bench to produce his second-highest scoring game of the season, pitching in 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting while hitting 5-of-6 at the free throw line. Paul Velander also came off the bench for three 3-pointers to produce nine points, while Aleks Maric added nine points and 10 rebounds, just missing adding to his career double-double total.
Maric still managed to reach a pair of milestones.
With his fifth rebound of the first half, Maric became only the second player in Nebraska history and the fifth player in the Big 12 era to record 1,000 rebounds. He now has 325 rebounds this season to rank second on the NU single-season list, just 10 boards behind record-holder Venson Hamilton. Maric is now 75 rebounds behind Hamilton on the career chart, as Maric has 1,005 to his credit.
With his seventh point of the game, Maric moved into sole possession of fifth place on the Nebraska career scoring chart. He passed Jaron Boone, who had 1,609 points in his career. Maric now has 1,612 points, becoming only the third player in Big 12 history with at least 1,600 career points and 1,000 rebounds.
Maric's milestone-reaching points capped the end of a game-changing scoring run for the Huskers.
After leading by 12 at the 16:27 mark of the second half, Nebraska went on an 11-1 run capped by Maric's conventional three-point play that gave Nebraska a 47-25 lead with 12:28 remaining. From there, the Huskers moved the lead out to 26 points on two occasions, with the last coming at 62-36 with 5:28 remaining.
Following Paul Velander's third 3-pointer of the game, Charlotte outscored Nebraska 8-2 in the last four minutes to cut the deficit to 19 points. It was the 49ers' worst loss of the season and the second straight game they were held under 50 points.
In the opening period, Nebraska fell behind 16-15 before Maric connected on his first two field goals to start a 13-3 run. The surge included 3-pointers from Ryan Anderson and Velander along with a three-point play from Dagunduro, as Nebraska opened a 28-19 lead with 2:39 remaining before intermission.
Coley hit a basket to pull the Niners back within seven before Anderson added another jumper and Cookie Miller, who had eight points off the bench, added a trey with 28 seconds remaining to give NU a 33-21 lead going into the locker room.
Overall, Nebraska hit 46.0 percent (23-of-50) from the field but struggled at the free throw line, where the Huskers connected on just 13-of-23 charity attempts. NU held a 39-33 advantage on the glass against the smaller Niners, and had 15 turnovers, although five were in the final three minutes when Nebraska cleared its bench with the game easily in hand.