BOULDER, Colo. (AP)—Just like Levi Knutson’s desperation halfcourt heave, the Colorado Buffaloes are close but not quite there.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers got 12 points each from Steve Harley and Ryan Anderson and survived a furious rally in the final minute to hold of Colorado 55-53 Wednesday night.
The Cornhuskers (14-7, 4-4 Big 12), who won consecutive conference road games for the first time since February 2007, when they won at Missouri and Texas Tech, overcame a 21-point effort by Dwight Thorne II.
The Buffaloes (9-12, 1-6), who were coming off a 66-61 loss at Kansas, have come up short by an average of 4.3 points in their last four league losses.
That’s of absolutely no comfort to Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik, who uncharacteristically ripped his team for lacking toughness and said there is no room in his book for moral victories.
“We’re not strong enough; we’re not tough enough,” Bzdelik said, lamenting his team’s failure to draw fouls, finish around the rim and box out. “You can blame that on youth, if you want to. But I’m not into excuses.
“I’m not into moral victories. I know some people are around here. I’m not. We need to be strong, we need to be tough. … Every possession is critical for a team that doesn’t have much margin for error.”
Nebraska led Colorado in bench points 25-6, free throw attempts 24-7 and offensive rebounds 7-2.
Bzdelik said his youth-laden team can compete in the Big 12 as evidenced by all the recent close calls, but he figures it’s high time the Buffs go hard to the basket instead of avoiding contact, work through the screens properly and quit committing unforced turnovers.
“Are we there? Yeah, but we’re not there. So, yeah, I’m upset, OK,” Bzdelik said. “Because people around here pat everybody on the back: ‘Oh, nice effort.’ Baloney. Not nice effort. It’s about winning. I’m not into that.”
Thorne said the Buffs had hoped to have more momentum from their close call at Kansas: “I’d say we stayed the same, and that’s not good. If you’re staying the same, you’re getting worse.”
Thorne’s fifth 3-pointer, from the right corner, pulled the Buffs to 54-53 with 15 seconds left.
Cookie Miller was fouled on the inbounds and sank one of two free throws for the ‘Huskers. Cory Higgins (15 points) brought the ball up for Colorado but missed the go-ahead bucket and Austin Dufault’s tip was off the mark.
This time, Cornhuskers guard Sek Henry was fouled with 2.6 seconds left and he missed both free throws, the second one intentionally. Knutson grabbed the ball and heaved it up from halfcourt.
Colorado led just once, at 30-28, but the Cornhuskers responded with a 9-2 run highlighted by Paul Velander’s 3-pointer to take control.
“Any time you win a game on the road, it’s a great feeling,” Cornhuskers coach Doc Sadler said after his first win in Boulder in three tries. “I thought they played extremely hard. Their defense gave us problems but we found a way to win it. We found a way to win it shooting only 54 percent from the free throw line (13-for-24). We made some plays down the stretch and I am just happy for our guys to get a second consecutive road win.”
The Cornhuskers beat the Red Raiders 82-69 in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday, and this one was much harder.
“It’s hard to win up here,” Sadler said. “And again, Jeff’s team each game is getting so much better.”
The Cornhuskers overcame 18 turnovers.
“That just shows how tough we are,” Henry said. “Our free throws were pretty bad. This is really big for us in our conference and especially knowing that we beat Colorado for the first time since Doc Sadler has been here. That helps us a lot and that gives us a name and people have to start looking out for us.”
Colorado Athletic Director Mike Bohn suspended walk-on Andrew Zehnder, a sophomore guard who had played in nine games this season, following his arrest Saturday on suspicion of third-degree burglary and criminal mischief. Zehnder is suspected of breaking into containers filled with CU merchandise at the Coors Events Center following the team’s return to Boulder after their game at Kansas.