George Town, Grand Cayman – Haanif Cheatham scored a career-high 26 points while Dachon Burke Jr. hit two crucial 3-pointers in the final 3:34, as Nebraska took third place in the Cayman Islands Classic with a 74-67 win over South Florida Wednesday afternoon.
Cheatham hit 8-of-11 from the field and 9-of-11 from the line as he eclipsed his precious career best of 24 set as a freshman at Marquette. Cheatham, who averaged 19.3 ppg on 70 percent shooting in three games, earned a spot on the all-tournament team.
While Cheatham enjoyed a career night, Burke stepped up after South Florida ran off seven straight points to trim an eight-point Husker lead to 63-62. The junior guard hit a long 3-pointer from the wing to snap the run and stretch the lead to four. South Florida was within 66-63 before Burke’s second 3-pointer with 1:59 left made it a six-point cushion, capping a season-high 21-point performance for the junior guard.
USF made one last charge and was within 71-67 before the Huskers iced the game by going 3-of-4 from the line with Cheatham icing the game with a pair of free throws with 13 seconds left. In all, the Huskers were 14-of-19 from the foul line in moving to 4-3 on the season.
Nebraska shot 55 percent from the floor, including 6-of-14 from 3-point range, while holding South Florida (3-4) to 39 percent, including 36 percent in the second half.
In the first half, the Huskers used a quick start and withstood a USF run to trail 35-33 at the break. Cheatham had 11 first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting to pace the Big Red, as Nebraska shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half.
Nebraska hit four of its first six shots from the floor to build an early 10-5 lead after a Burke slam less than four minutes in before the Bulls charged back. South Florida used a 9-2 spurt of their own to take a 14-12 lead after a basket from Michael Durr.
Nebraska led 19-18 before South Florida, which shot 41 percent in the half, hit three straight 3-pointers, the last of which by Justin Brown gave the Bulls their largest lead of the half at 27-19 with 7:59 left in the half.
Nebraska rallied behind the play of Cheatham, who scored nine of his 11 first-half points in the final eight minutes of the half. The Huskers trailed 35-27 before consecutive 3-pointers from Jervay Green and Cheatham pulled NU within two at the break.
The teams traded the lead over the first five minutes of the second half before Davis Collins scored six straight points to give the Bulls a 51-46 advantage with 13:05 left. Collins finished with a team-high 16 points in a losing effort.
The Bulls eventually pushed the margin to seven before the Huskers rallied. Cheatham and Burke combined for 11 straight points before Thorir Thorbjarnarson’s basket capped a 13-0 blitz and gave the Huskers a 59-53 lead with 9:10 left.
Nebraska eventually stretched the lead to eight before the Bulls came back with seven straight points to pull within one and forced a Husker timeout with 3:49 left.
The Huskers will return to Lincoln and begin preparing for the matchup at Georgia Tech in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge next Wednesday, Dec. 4. Tipoff is at 6:15 p.m. and will be carried on ESPNU and available on the IMG-Learfield Husker Sports Network.