LINCOLN, Neb. (AP)—With the shot clock winding down, Ade Dagunduro had no choice but to launch the 3-pointer that gave Nebraska a four-point lead in the final minute against No. 16 Texas.
“That’s not usually my shot,” Dagunduro said, “but it was desperation time.”
It’s starting to become desperation time for Texas now.
Saturday’s 58-55 loss to the Cornhuskers was the third straight for a Longhorn team that has reached the Elite Eight two of the last three years.
Texas (15-7, 4-4 Big 12) came into the game off home losses to Kansas State and Missouri by a combined eight points. The three-point loss dropped the Longhorns into the middle of the pack in the conference and marks the first time since 2004-05 that the Longhorns have dropped three straight.
“We’ve lost five or six games by one or two possessions,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “We are what we are, and that’s the bottom line. We haven’t won those games, and we’ve lost some games on the last possessions where teams make plays on us, and you have to give them credit for it.”
Nebraska (15-7, 5-4), which took sole possession of fourth place with its third straight win, outplayed Texas with little more than their sheer will to win. The Huskers are a small team with only one player as tall as 6-foot-8. The Longhorns shuffled in three players who are 6-10 but outrebounded Nebraska just 34-30.
Dagunduro scored 17 points and had a career-high nine rebounds.
A.J. Abrams led the Longhorns with 16 points. Damion James added 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Gary Johnson had 12 points.
“I thought Gary Johnson and Damion James both scored some points, and we knew that probably would happen,” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. “I said anything over the low 60s and we’d probably be in trouble. If we held it in the 50s, we’ve got a chance to win it. We made some plays.”
Barnes said his team made some bad decisions, which accounted for rushed shots and many of the 16 turnovers.
“I’ve always told our team, your defense will get the lead for you, but your offense has to keep it,” he said. “It didn’t do that for us tonight.”
The win took some of the sting out of close losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State, Sadler said.
“We’ve been here many times, and it’s not come down like this, but the effort has been the same,” he said. “I think our guys, as they have every game, find a way to overachieve and stay in there. This time, at least, we got some good luck.”
The Huskers also got some huge plays from Cookie Miller, Toney McCray and Dagunduro in the comeback.
The Longhorns looked to be in full control after a 24-4 run put them up 34-22 early in the second half. But the Huskers went on a 16-3 spurt, with Miller making a high-arcing 3-pointer just before the shot clock ran out to give the Huskers a 46-45 lead with 6:18 left.
The teams traded the lead four times before a McCray jumper made it 53-52 Nebraska with 1:43 left, and McCray came up with a big rebound after an Abrams miss.
Then Dagunduro, who hadn’t attempted a 3-pointer in three games and had made only five all season, launched one from the left wing to give the Huskers a 56-52 lead with 50 seconds left. As Dagunduro ran back to play defense, he broke into a wide smile and pointed his index fingers toward the ceiling.
Abrams, the Big 12’s all-time 3-point leader, hit his fourth of the game from long distance to get Texas within a point. But, down two points with nine seconds left, he missed from the corner with three defenders in his face.
“We tried to run the same play we had just run, but they kind of broke it up, so I tried to get the best shot I could,” Abrams said. “It was a tough shot, obviously.”
Justin Mason was well short with a 3 at the buzzer, prompting students to rush the floor and chants of “Go Big Red” throughout the Devaney Sports Center. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne made his way to the floor at the end of the game to shake hands with a teary-eyed Sadler.
Nebraska has won against at least one Top 25 opponent nine years in a row.
“It’s tough loss,” James said. “We’ve got to go back, look at the film, learn from our mistakes and continue to fight.”