Nebraska Wesleyan played the University of Nebraska to a halftime tie and even led briefly in the second half at the Bob Devaney Sports Center on Saturday night.
However, the Huskers eventually found their defensive intensity and won 70-50 in the first varsity men’s basketball meeting between the two schools since 1923.
The Prairie Wolves fell behind 8-0 before junior Brandon Arp came off the bench and sank a three-pointer with 14:51 left in the first half for NWU’s first points of the game.
Sophomore Ryan Thramer hit back-to-back treys to pull Nebraska Wesleyan to within 13-11 at the 10:54 mark. The Husker lead stretched to six before Arp hit another triple to cut the deficit in half at 24-21 with 4:03 left in the first half.
Thramer gave NWU its first lead (26-25) with two free throws and a three-pointer on consecutive possessions. After Nebraska’s Aleks Maric tied it with a free throw, Arp nailed another shot from beyond the arc to give the Prairie Wolves a 29-26 advantage with just 2:23 left in the half.
The Huskers made two more charity shots with :03 on the clock to knot it 30-30 at intermission. Nebraska Wesleyan benefited from 20 bench points and 7-for-15 three-point shooting in the first half, while NU struggled at the line and from beyond the arc.
Sophomore center Dylan Aylward hit a mid-range bank shot to open the second half and give NWU a 32-30 lead, but consecutive baskets by Maric put the Huskers back up 36-32.
Just seconds later, Wesleyan’s top player, Marcus Minzel, was sidelined with a broken nose and by the time he returned to the floor, Nebraska’s lead had ballooned to 47-34.
Minzel stopped the bleeding with a trey and Thramer hit another after a steal and assist by Arp to pull the Prairie Wolves to 47-40 with 11:53 to go. But the Huskers went on another run to win 70-50.
The Prairie Wolves were led by Thramer, who had a double-double, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Minzel added 13 points, and Arp finished with nine. Nebraska’s Maric led all players with 22 points and 14 boards.
“We wanted to use this as an opportunity to compete and improve,” Head Coach Cam Schuknecht said. “It was a great experience for our players, fans and alums.”
“To the Lincoln community and across Nebraska, we proved our program is headed in the right direction.”
Minzel and Thramer reflected after the game.
“It feels good to know we can compete at this level,” Minzel said.
“I never thought we’d play the Huskers when I came to Wesleyan,” Thramer said. “This is something I’ll never forget, and to play well, like we did, gives this team a great deal of confidence.”