"Coach (Rick Barnes) said we were going to run an iso, which is our open set. I just had the ball, and (forward) Brian (Boddicker) set an up-screen. I got a good angle and stepped (left) away from the screen. I felt good when I let go. I felt real good. When it went in, I get back on D because I thought they were going to take the ball out."
Instead, Nebraska called timeout to set up G Jake Muhleisen's three-point attempt that was just off the mark. The loss dropped a much improved Cornhusker team to 10-4, but 0-3 in league play.
Muhleisen's last second shot was one of the few misses from beyond the arc for either team. On a vintage day of physical Big 12 basketball, both squads found it was tough sledding inside the paint but found wide-open looks from three-point land. Texas shot just 39 percent (23-of-59) from the field but connected on a season-best 10-of-22 treys (45.5 percent. The Huskers hit 10-of-17 (47.1 percent) from three-point range and, after heating up in the second half, finished 21-of-44 (47.7 percent) from the floor.
The fact that the driving lanes were congested all afternoon meant that the ball was going to be in Ivey's hand at crunch time.
"We were going to let him use his penetration because he had done a good job all day in getting it into the lane for us," Barnes said, after Ivey played approximately 20 of is 32 minutes at point guard. "He worked so hard on the defensive end, but he was also the first guy who started driving the ball for us. You're not gonna get the ball all the way to the basket against Nebraska."
Ivey's 13 points tied for team-high honors with junior G Kenny Taylor. The Baylor transfer nailed a clutch three-pointer when Texas trailed, 59-55, with 1:41 remaining.
"If they want to leave me open, I'm comfortable with taking it," Taylor said, who also grabbed the key defensive board to set up Ivey's game-winner. That came just after Boddicker's trey tied the game at 61 with 59 seconds remaining.
"Boddicker and Kenny hit big shots," Ivey said. "If it wasn't for their shots, my shot wouldn't have mattered."
The last-second sharp shooting followed a near fatal seven-minute stretch when Texas missed 14 consecutive shots.
"Our guys showed a lot of character," Barnes said. "It's not gonna be easy. I hope people understand that, in this league, there are no gimmees. We didn't play horrible. We played hard; we worked hard. We were fortunate to get it done at the end."
The Huskers held the Horns to their fewest point total since Duke limited Texas to 61 on Dec. 2. Texas entered Saturday's game as the top scoring team in the nation, averaging 90 ppg, while holding opponents to a combined 40.5 percent
"We just tried to stay focused," Taylor said of the second half scoring drought. "Sometimes the buckets are not going to go in. You have to play tough defense and put everything on your defense."
The Horns forced 10 Nebraska turnovers while committing a season-low five give-aways of their own. Boasting the Big 12's deepest bench, Longhorn backups added 32 points compared to 16 from Nebraska subs.
F Andrew Drevo had the hot hand, tallying 23 points on 8-of-14 FG, including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. The bigger Drevo (6-8, 25) gave freshman F P.J. Tucker a crash course in physical Big 12 play. Tucker had his toughest outing offensively (1-of-6 FG) but added eight rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal in 27 minutes.
Texas led for most of the ballgame, but could never push the lead to double-digits. Taylor's second trey of the contest gave Texas a 15-9 lead at the 13:16 mark. But G Nate Johnson's shot from beyond the arc completed a 7-0 Cornhusker run as Texas trailed for the second time, 16-15. Ivey's trey reclaimed the Texas lead, launching a 9-0 run that included junior C Jason Klotz's traditional three-point play.
Texas led 24-16 but the visitors held tough by controlling the glass in the first half (17-15) against a Longhorn team that entered the game leading the nation in rebounding margin (46.4-33.5, for a +12.9).
After Nebraska trimmed the Longhorn lead to 28-27, the Horns held the Huskers scoreless during the final 2:21 as Klotz's offensive board and putback, followed by a Taylor free throw, gave Texas a slim 31-27 lead at intermission.
Sophomore G Kenton Paulino's trey opened the second half, followed by sophomore F Brad Buckman's bucket to complete an 8-0 run going back to the final 48 seconds of the opening frame.
Nebraska's three-point shooting kept them in it. Senior F Brian Conklin's trey narrowed the Texas lead, 40-38, while Jason Dourisseau's tip-in gave the Huskers a 41-40 lead with 12:31 remaining.
Ivey then led the charge. Following his bucket, the senior forced a baseline turnover at the opposite end of the court before his jumper gave Texas a 44-41 lead. C James Thomas followed his steal with a pair of free throws while Boddicker and Taylor each drained a trey as Texas led, 52-44.
That's when the Children of the Corn responded with a 12-0 run, as Texas went ice cold from the floor. Buckman put an end to the bleeding with a play that was second only to Ivey's game-winning jumper. Trailing 56-52, Buckman went strong to the hole and connected while drawing the fifth personal against junior F John Turek. His old-fashioned three-point play not only brought Texas back to within a single point, it was the turning point in a game that was slipping away.
Drevo followed with yet another trey, but that only delayed the inevitable as Taylor, Boddicker and Ivey combined for clutch shots in the waning moments. It was the second time in four outings that Texas won in the final two seconds. Tucker's buzzer-beater at Providence has given new life to a team that also posted a double-digit win over No. 3 Wake Forest on Tuesday.
"It's good for us to have games like this," Ivey said. "Come March, we'll have games like this with these two similar situations. We'll know how to handle it a little better. We need games like this."
One of the running jokes with Ivey is that his father is his toughest critic. (One may recall that Ivey's dad literally asked Barnes why he would want to offer his son a scholarship when the head coach made his recruiting visit to Queens, New York). The elder Ivey, on hand to see his son's game-winning shot, simply remarked: "Oh, you've got some confidence now, huh?"
The Horns return to action Tuesday at Missouri (college hoops most psycho team), 8 p.m. (CST) in an ESPN national broadcast. The Tigers spent the first five weeks of the season ranked in the Top 10 before dropping seven of their past 10 games. That stretch, however, includes a 79-75 overtime win Saturday at No. 13 Oklahoma.