Juwan Gary had a team-high 16 points, but Nebraska shot just 42 percent from the field in a 69-56 loss to Oklahoma in the first round of the ESPN Events Invitational Thursday afternoon.
Gary paced Nebraska (3-2) for the second straight game as he hit 7-of-16 shots from the floor and grabbed seven rebounds to help the Huskers enjoy a 35-23 advantage on the glass, but Oklahoma shot 51 percent, including 9-of-20 from 3-point range.
Emmanuel Bandoumel was the only other Husker to finish in double figures. Totaling 13 points and a team-high five assists, while C.J. Wilcher added nine points and five boards.
Tanner Groves led four Oklahoma (3-1) players in double figures with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range, while Jacob Groves added 16 for the winners.
In the first half, the Huskers weathered some hot shooting by Oklahoma over the first 15 minutes, but rallied in the final five minutes to trail 41-34 going into the break.
Both teams were red hot early, as Nebraska hit its first five shots from the field, while the Sooners went 5-of-7 from 3-point range to build an early 17-12 lead. Gary, who had 11 first-half points, scored five straight to pull even at 17 with 12:26 left in the half, but the Sooners came right back with seven unanswered to take a 24-17 lead after Bijan Cortes’ 3-pointer. The Huskers got to within 28-22, but another 7-0 Sooner spurt made it a 13-point lead, as Oklahoma shot over 60 percent for most of the half before cooling off.
Trailing 39-26, Bandoumel and Gary led NU back, as the Huskers clamped down on the defensive end and held OU to just one field goal in the final 4:30 of the period and got to within 39-33 after Gary’s layup with 2:04 left in the half.
Bandoumel and Gary led NU with 11 first-half points, as Nebraska shot 50 percent from the floor and out-rebounded Oklahoma 18-9, but five turnovers led to eight Sooner points. OU went 7-of-12 from beyond the arc and shot 53.3 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.
The Sooners scored the first five points of the half to take a 46-34 lead, but Nebraska would fight back. The Huskers ran off five straight points to get within 49-43 with 12:56 left after a pair of Bandoumel free throws. NU, which shot just 35 percent in the second half, hung around on the defensive end, holding OU to just a pair of field goals for an eight-minute stretch.
Trailing 51-43, NU has several possessions to make it a two-possession game but missed six straight shots to get closer. Baskets by Grant Sherfield and Jalen Hill extended the Sooner lead to 12 with just over seven minutes remaining. From there, the lead hovered between 10 and 12 until OU got three straight baskets, turning a 63-53 contest until a 16-point cushion.
Nebraska will play Memphis today at 4:30. Memphis fell to Seton Hall in round one of the tournament yesterday 70-69.