EL PASO, Texas — Nebraska’s basketball offense went back into the icebox Sunday night during a 68-52 loss to host UTEP in the title game of the Sun Bowl Invitational.
The Huskers failed to score in the game’s first 6:26, falling behind 13-0 after missing their first seven shots and committing three turnovers.
This was one day after scoring 89 points in a win against Central Michigan, the most for NU in 93 games.
That gruesome start and a 20-point halftime deficit drained any drama from the Huskers’ attempt to win an in-season tournament for the first time since the 2000 San Juan Shootout.
Junior guard Ray Gallegos scored a career- and game-high 22 points, and was voted to the all-tournament team. He scored 19 points Saturday against Central Michigan.
But the only other Husker in double figures Sunday was senior forward Brandon Ubel with 11, and he shot 4 of 12. Leading scorer Dylan Talley went 0 for 8 from the field. His four points were 11 less than his average.
Nebraska, which shot 57.1 percent Saturday, hit 22 percent in the first half and 37.3 percent for the game.
“The quick start didn’t doom us,” Husker coach Tim Miles said. “UTEP played super basketball and we missed some relatively easy shots.
“But that’s kind of been our M.O. It was the same thing at Oregon. We missed some easy shots. You’ve got to make your shots when you get a chance, especially the ones you should make 60 percent of the time or more.”
Nebraska (8-4) bounced back from its scoreless start to close to 15-7 on five straight points from Gallegos, and to 20-11 on two Andre Almeida free throws with 7:46 left in the first half.
But UTEP (6-5) outscored the Huskers 16-5 the rest of the half. At the 2:51 mark, Miners guard Jacques Streeter drilled a 3-pointer from 30 feet as the shot clock expired, was fouled and completed the four-point play.
After guard McKenzie Moore and Streeter added two more baskets, UTEP’s lead was 22 points at 36-14 with 56 seconds to go in the half.
Streeter and fellow guard Konner Tucker led the Miners with 17 points each.
In the second half, with UTEP using its second unit for a long stretch, Nebraska closed to 60-49 with 3:27 to go but couldn’t get any closer.
Nebraska finishes nonconference play Saturday at home at 2 p.m. against Nicholls State (1-8). The Colonels’ lone win was against New Orleans 92-79 Nov. 26.