LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Reserve DJ McDonald scored a career-high 15 points, George Willborn III had 13 points and 18 rebounds, and UC Riverside upset Nebraska 66-47 to spoil Fred Hoiberg’s coaching debut with the Cornhuskers on Tuesday night.
The Big West’s Highlanders, who went 10-23 last season and have had one winning season since joining Division I in 2000, won for the first time over a Power Five opponent since beating California in November 2017.
Cam Mack had 11 points and nine rebounds and Matej Kavas added 10 for the Huskers, who lost a season opener at home for the first time since 1980.
UC Riverside made 7 of 9 3-pointers to start the second half, with McDonald hitting three in a row, and it was 59-40 when fans headed for the exits en masse at the under-4 timeout. Those who remained let out maybe the biggest cheer of the night when Kavas made an off-balance perimeter shot in the final minute.
The Highlanders, who got 14 points and four 3s from Dragan Elkaz, made 12 shots from beyond the arc and outrebounded the Huskers 49-29.
Nebraska shot just 29 percent from the field and was 9 of 19 from the foul line.
The 47-year-old Hoiberg, who coached Iowa State to four NCAA Tournament appearances from 2010-15, is back in the college game after three-plus seasons with the Chicago Bulls.
Hoiberg was at the top of wish lists for several schools looking for a new coach last March. There was a sentimental pull to Nebraska, where his parents earned degrees, his father taught sociology and his maternal grandfather was head basketball coach from 1955-63. And Hoiberg was born in Lincoln.
As coaches who came before him can attest, this job isn’t easy. The Huskers have never sustained success in basketball, are the only Power Five team to have never won an NCAA Tournament game and haven’t won a conference title since 1950.
Hoiberg, who signed a seven-year contract valued at $25 million, offered a quick left-handed wave to fans as he walked into the arena before tipoff, and the Huskers made 6 of 7 shots to get out to an early lead in the first five minutes.
The other 35 minutes belonged to the Highlanders.
Nebraska hit only 4 of its last 22 shots of the half, Willburn scored nine points during a 20-5 spurt that pulled UCR even, and Elkaz swooped in for a putback just before the buzzer to put the Highlanders up 32-28 at the break.
UC Riverside: The Highlanders capitalized on Nebraska’s offensive ineptitude, getting stronger as the game went on. Second-year coach David Patrick returned the core of his team and added three freshmen and five transfers. They’ll get another crack at a Power Five opponent when they travel to Washington State next month.
Nebraska: It’s going to take a while for a roster with 14 newcomers to coalesce. On this night, the Huskers looked every bit the team picked 13th in the Big Ten.
UC Riverside hosts Idaho on Saturday.
Nebraska hosts Southern Utah on Saturday.
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