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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — After trailing Rhode Island for most of the game, Nebraska turned up its defense, stopped turning the ball over and took a 70-67 come-from-behind win over the Rams.
"We finally started playing good at the 6 ½ minute mark and just finished out the game from there," said Shavon Shields, who led Nebraska with 21 points. "Defense is our identity. It's what allowed us to go on that run. What allows us to win games is defense. We need everyone bought in and everyone making plays. When we do that, we win games."
Nebraska (7-4) had trailed Rhode Island (6-4) since midway through the first half, falling behind by as many as 11. The Huskers stayed close to the Rams in the second half, thanks in large part to Glynn Watson Jr. who scored 13 of his career-high 17 points in the final 20 minutes.
Benny Parker's 3 pointer off a Watson assist gave Nebraska a 67-65 lead with 1:14 left as Nebraska coach Tim Miles played both of his point guards at the same time to trigger the late game comeback.
"Glynn was doing a good job and he was scoring," Miles said. "For a young guy, that's kind of his m.o. I think it gives him confidence. But it was their defensive pressure more than anything. That really helped us."
The Rams threw the ball away on their next possession. Watson dribbled down the shot clock before hitting a floater in the lane. Hassan Martin's inside jumper cut the Nebraska lead to 69-67. Shields hit 1 of 2 free throws with 8 seconds left and Jared Terrell's 3-pointer at the buzzer missed the mark.
"Credit to my teammates, they told me, keep playing, keep playing with confidence," Watson said. "That's what I did. Try to make a play. I made a big shot."
The Rams used a 12-0 run to take a 29-18 lead with 5:58 remaining in the first half. Nebraska countered with a 10-2 spurt to cut the margin to two before Jarvis Garrett banked in an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Rhode Island a 37-32 halftime lead. Rhode Island led by as many as nine in the second half.
"This is obviously a tough pill to swallow," Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. "I felt like a couple things really hurt us. Obviously second-half turnovers, especially when they made their run. You know they're going to make a run here at home with the crowd so that was a big factor. We lost our composure, turned it over and lost our minds in terms of execution."
Garrett and Kuran Iverson had 15 points each for Rhode Island.
RIGHT OF PASSAGE, MAYBE
"We've been by the chalk this whole time," Miles said. "If we're the dog, we get beat. If we're expected to win, we win. I thought tonight was a toss-up game. The guys came out and did a heck of a job finding a way to win even though it wasn't easy for a long, long time."
Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are 1-3 this season when scoring less than 70 points.
Rhode Island: Each starter for the Rams entered Sunday's game averaging double figures, four of them at 11 points per game and Jarvis Garrett at 10 points. Jared Terrell and Four McGlynn were held to eight points apiece on a combined 5-of-18 shooting, and Hassan Martin took just four shots for six points.
Nebraska hosts Samford Sunday.
Rhode Island hosts Iona Saturday.
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