Published Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 9:07 pm / Updated at 10:57 pm
Top Devaney Center moments (and what's next)

The hex on Kansas

The look on Roy Williams' face was priceless to Nebraska fans — both times.

The ultra-successful Kansas coach wasn't used to seeing victories taken away, home or road. But that's what happened at the Devaney Center in 1992 when the Huskers' Bruce Chubick and Jamar Johnson conspired to steal an 81-79 overtime win over the third-ranked Jayhawks.

First, NU had to get the game to overtime.

That didn't look good when KU's Alonzo Jamison grabbed a blocked shot with five seconds left near midcourt and broke free for what looked like a game-winning dunk. But the 6-foot-7 Chubick stormed after the 6-6 Jamison and blocked the shot at the rim as the buzzer sounded, with Williams standing dumbfounded when no foul was called.

In overtime, Nebraska trailed by four points with 29 seconds to play. But with one second left, Johnson caught an inbounds pass and drilled a 20-foot 3-pointer for the win, leaving Williams incredulous again.

That Houdini act was part of a run of six Nebraska wins in seven years over Kansas at the Devaney Center, most filled with high drama.

In 1987, Henry T. Buchanan drove the lane and dished to Derrick Vick for a layup to beat No. 16 KU 83-81 in overtime. In 1988, Beau Reid's jump shot at the buzzer produced a 70-68 win over the eventual national champion Jayhawks.

In 1989, NU beat No. 18 Kansas 74-70 to break a nine-game Big Eight losing skid. In 1991, No. 15 Nebraska beat No. 10 Kansas 85-75.

Chubick's and Johnson's heroics produced the 1992 win. Then in 1993, the Huskers upended No. 3 Kansas 68-64. The sellout crowd of 14,679 stormed the court and cut down the nets.

Who did the crowd mob after the net-cutting? ABC announcer Dick Vitale, his only game appearance in Lincoln.

Scoring explosions

In the search for the single-game scoring record at the Devaney, a high school performance comes first.

Guard Andre Woolridge from Omaha Benson poured in 50 points in the Bunnies' 95-76 win over Hastings in the 1992 Class A state title game. He hit 17 of 34 field goals and 12 of 15 free throws.

The college scoring record belongs to a visitor who went on to the NBA.

Harold Miner of USC fired in 43 points (15 of 34 field goals, 9 of 10 free throws) but Nebraska countered with six double-figure scorers to win 93-84 in November 1991.

A memorable sidenote came when Husker coach Danny Nee blew a gasket as public address man Steve Johnsen announced Miner's record. Nee stomped to midcourt, slammed his fist on the scorer's table and berated a bewildered Johnsen.

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A 40-point game from Husker center Rich King in an 82-73 win over Northern Illinois in February 1991 is worth noting.

The 7-foot-2 senior out of Omaha Burke had two points in the first 12 minutes. In the next 26 minutes, he went off for 38 points.

King's 40 points broke the then-arena record of 39 held by Kansas' Ron Kellogg out of Omaha Northwest. Kellogg still holds the men's mark for single-game field goals, making 16 of 19.

What was Kellogg's inspiration that night? He said he saw his ex-girlfriend walk into the Devaney Center with a new boyfriend.

The most points for a Husker woman at the Devaney was 40 by Amy Stephens against Oklahoma in 1989. Three NU totals higher than that — 48 by Karen Jennings, 46 by Maurtice Ivy and 41 by Crystal Coleman — came on the road.

NU women and NCAA

Nearly all of the high points in Nebraska women's basketball have happened at the Devaney Center.

The Huskers, with Maurtice Ivy starring, went 22-7 in 1987-88. That team won the school's first Big Eight championship and played in its first NCAA tournament, losing at USC.

In 1992-93, with Karen Jennings in the lead role, NU went 23-8 and claimed its first NCAA tourney victory — 81-58 over San Diego at the Devaney Center. Angela Beck coached those two teams.

Then came the magical season of 2009-10 under coach Connie Yori.

A 32-2 record. A 16-0 run to a Big 12 championship. A No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Two wins to reach the Sweet 16. And the only sellout home crowd in school history — 13,595 for a win over Missouri on Feb. 27, 2010.

The Husker women also hold the building record for longest winning streak. They won 29 in a row from December 1986 through January 1989.

Magic and Michael

NBA legends Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls took part in exhibition games at the Devaney Center.

Johnson had 13 points and 10 assists in the Lakers' 117-104 win over the Phoenix Suns in October 1989 in front of a sellout crowd of 14,793.

Said Johnson: “The crowd was super. The Devaney Center is a beautiful building and great for basketball. The people are right on top of you.''

Jordan scored 20 points to help the Chicago Bulls rout the New Jersey Nets 117-87 in October 1988, then had 22 points in the Bulls' 104-101 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in October 1995. A sellout crowd of 14,335 also saw former Nebraska star Eric Piatkowski score 16 for the Clippers.

But Dennis Rodman upstaged everyone. The Bulls' wild man drew two technical fouls 14 seconds apart in the third quarter and was ejected to a standing ovation. It's unclear if the crowd liked his act or was glad he was gone.

Three NCAA tourneys

It was the night a Devaney Center crowd of Nebraskans cheered long and loud for Kansas. Or maybe against Xavier.

Either way, it helped KU claim a first-round win in the 1988 NCAA men's basketball tournament.

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In interviews a few days before the tourney, Xavier players had expressed disappointment about “having to go all the way to Nebraska.'' A couple of Cincinnati sports columnists piled on, referring to Lincoln as “Siberia with 7-Elevens.''

Xavier was booed from the moment it walked into the building on its way to the locker room. Kansas, cheered throughout, took a 20-point lead in the first half and won 85-72.

“The crowd was phenomenal,'' Jayhawks coach Larry Brown said. “It was almost like playing at home.'' KU went on to win the national title.

NCAA first- and second-round games also were played at the Devaney Center in 1980 and 1984.

In 1984, DePaul under record-setting coach Ray Meyer was the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, but lost to Wake Forest in Lincoln. In 1980, Louisville under Denny Crum won twice in Lincoln and rolled on to claim the national title over UCLA.

Volleyball at the Devaney

Next season won't be the first time the Devaney Center becomes home to Nebraska volleyball.

In 1991, with the NU Coliseum undergoing a $20 million renovation, the Huskers spent one season in the Devaney, trying to contend for a national title while sharing court time with the men's and women's basketball teams.

“It was fine, but it was difficult for us,'' coach Terry Pettit said. “We didn't practice there.''

The Huskers earned the right to play the NCAA regional at the Devaney, but lost to Ohio State in the match to go to the final four.

A rough start

The Nebraska men didn't produce much Husker Magic in their first season at the Devaney Center.

NU lost the building opener on Nov. 27, 1976, to Iowa 71-57 and didn't claim a home win over a Division I foe until knocking off Colorado seven weeks into the season. The Huskers won more games away from home that season (eight) than at home (seven).

Thou protest too much

The 1986 NCAA men's gymnastics championship produced the most drawn-out drama in Devaney Center history. It took judges 45 minutes after the meet's final performance to declare Arizona State the winner over Nebraska.

The margin? Three-tenths of a point.

That just happened to be the after-the-action penalty assessed to the Huskers for “incorrect inquiry procedure.'' Under new rules that year, any protests over the previous limit of three were subject to a penalty if the protest wasn't upheld.

Husker coach Francis Allen, who filed the extra protests, called the judges “eggheads'' publicly — and something a bit more indelicate privately.

Remodeling, not closing

The Devaney Center isn't closing. It's about to undergo the biggest transformation in its 37 years of existence.

After a $20.5 million makeover, Nebraska volleyball will become the prime tenant as the basketball teams transfer to Pinnacle Bank Arena following this season.

The Devaney will be reconfigured from 13,595 seats to about 7,000 for most matches. On special occasions, the arena could seat up to 10,000.

Seating will be moved closer to the playing floor. Two new video boards will be installed closer to the floor. The south end will be rebuilt for luxury suites and coaches' offices. Already, new locker rooms, meeting rooms and VIP gathering spaces are under construction.

Nebraska volleyball has sold out 164 consecutive matches in the 4,174-seat NU Coliseum. The added seats give the Huskers a chance to challenge Hawaii and its 6,500-seat arena for the yearly national attendance lead.

* * *

>> Timeline: View an interactive timeline of some of the most memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, coach quotes and more:

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.



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