It always happens. Always. Nebrasketball is nothing if not consistent, and so at the beginning of the second half - after what was already a quick five point shave off the lead by the Buckeyes - Terran Petteway did his best to hand the ball and the lead back to Ohio State. Perhaps this would be the moment that the Buckeyes got back their mojo. They could look back at the time they went to Nebraska, played through the crowd noise and the terrible first half of offense, and then go on a run to not only the B1G title, but larger aspirations. We had seen this game play out. Nebraska simply couldn't close a game.
And so, 15,342 fans waited in nervous anticipation for what would be the inevitable. While normally I can pace around the house and deal with this insanity from the comforts of my own home, I had called dibs on these tickets at the beginning of the season. This would be the first time I stepped foot in Pinnacle Bank Arena and saw the beautiful First National Bank court , and yes, rival banks with sponsorships on both pieces is the funniest part of the entire new arena.
Now, this bears mentioning before we go too much further. This arena is a gamechanger. I know that many in the media have said nice things, and for those unfamiliar with Nebraska, it's arena, or the time and energy that is going into making basketball grandiose in this state, the praise is probably pretty absurd. However, as me and my friend sat there, we couldn't imagine there is a more beautiful place to play - or watch - basketball as this was. While it may not have the history yet, it definitely has the makings for a fine home court advantage. The sound, the clean lines, the fancy lights. I could go on and on about it, but I implore you to make the trip to Nebraska for the arena. If the practice facilities are as nice as they say, I believe Tim Miles will bring the right recruits through the door soon enough.
Of course, this is not about the beautifully wide hallways at the new arena, and is totally about the fact that Nebraska finally got a nice big win at the new palace. Yes, Ohio State is reeling and may not be ranked when the week is over. But Tim Miles needed this win. Pinnacle Bank Arena needed this win. Those of us who believe that Nebrasketball is right on the cusp of doing some special things needed this. It's just that most of us didn't believe that would happen. The last time these two teams met, the Buckeyes murdalized the Cornhuskers in an 82-53 win that was arguably less close than the score implied. This time, Nebraska would have no part of that.
Shavon Shields consistently went to the hoop, and between beautiful passing and cutting, the Huskers kept putting pressure back on Ohio State. Despite giving up the aforementioned 14 point lead, Nebraska hit free throws down the stretch. Petteway, Deverell Biggs, Shields, Tai Webster, David Webster... They all kept hitting their free throws, and with less than 30 seconds, the kids lined up to rush the court. It didn't matter that this was all meaningless in the standings, or that Ohio State was beat up mentally and physically, or even that security had a worried look on its face. No, this would be a night to celebrate. And so the kids picked up Shields, the fans stood on their feet, and we saw a glimpse of what can happen in a building that has been magical so far.
Nebraska has a chance to make a run here. Not to the NCAA tournament necessarily, but at least to the effect of building momentum for the future. The pieces are learning to play together and that brutal opening stretch is over. I may be a sucker for getting caught up in one game, but what a game that was. It was nice to see them win this one, and I hope it's just the beginning for Tim Miles and his team.