LINCOLN — Technically, Nebraska's 50-48 victory Thursday night over Valparaiso was an upset.
Valpo, the defending Horizon League champion with five senior starters back from a 22-win team, was a five-point favorite.
NU, picked last in the Big Ten, is still trying to remember first-year coach Tim Miles' name.
Yet it was the rag-tag roster of seven scholarship Huskers and three walk-ons that took hold of the game 15 minutes in and acted more like polished veterans in front of 6,324 fans at the Devaney Center.
“I thought there was a spark on the team I hadn't seen before,” Miles said. “Like I told them after the game, we won the exhibition game and the locker room was just kind of blah. We beat Southern and the locker room was just kind of blah.
“Tonight, they are all charged up. I told them, 'This is the way you're supposed to feel.' And it's not just about winning. I thought we played all right.”
Except for a late-game offensive drought that caused far more drama than necessary.
Nebraska, up 28-22 at halftime, increased that margin to 40-26 with 14:49 to play.
Valparaiso switched to a zone defense and went on a 7-0 run. But Husker forward Brandon Ubel scored three baskets in four minutes for a 48-37 lead with 7:20 to go.
That was Nebraska's last basket. The only other points were Ubel's two free throws with 14.3 seconds left.
Valpo (2-1) never took the lead, but had a 60-foot heave at the buzzer to win that fell short.
Miles said he was uncertain how Nebraska (2-0) would play because of some disjointed practices and illness on the team.
“We kind of felt like a team that was unsure,” he said. “But at halftime, they didn't feel like a team that was unsure.
“And I don't think they played like a team that was unsure. They did a lot of good things.”
The best thing was defending the 3-point shot.
Valparaiso entered the game shooting 52.5 percent from the field overall, and 54.5 percent from the 3-point line (26 of 48). Against Nebraska, the Crusaders shot 34 percent overall (16 of 47) and 13.3 percent on 3s (2 of 15).
“That was the key to the game,” said Ubel, who led NU with 17 points. “We had to get back in transition, find their shooters and contest shots.”
Miles broke up the interview room by interrupting into a question that started “was it somewhat unexpected . . . ”
“What, that we played good defensively?” he said, smiling. “I like to think we did a good job chasing them off the line a little.”
Valpo forward Ryan Broekhoff, the returning Horizon League player of the year, scored just eight points — nine less than his average — and missed 9 of 11 shots and all five 3-pointers.
“We gutted it out and were able to get stops,” Ubel said. “That's a very good shooting Valparaiso team we just held to 48 points. We did it on the defensive end, which is what we're going to have to do.”
Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew praised Nebraska for playing smartly and having scouted well.
“I thought the last seven minutes we finally got a rhythm and started to play,” he said. “For 33 minutes, Nebraska outplayed us.”
NOTES: Valpo's 48 points were its fewest in 29 games. ... Nebraska senior Dylan Talley missed all five of his shots, but contributed six rebounds, four assists and strong defense. ... The Huskers are still struggling to draw fouls. They shot just 11 free throws. ... NU's next game is Sunday at home at 2 p.m. against the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
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