Huskers shut down the Devaney Center with a 53-51 victory over Minnesota
By Jake Bockoven, NewsNetNebraska
Nebraska entered Wednesday night’s game in a familiar situation, as the underdog.
Minnesota came in as a probable NCAA tournament team with a National Championship coach in Tubby Smith that had just knocked off #1 Indiana two weeks ago and had defeated the huskers 84-65 in Minneapolis earlier in the year. The Huskers came in at three games under .500 and looking for only its fifth Big Ten victory of the year.
But Nebraska had reason to play some of their best basketball of the season: It was the final Husker men’s basketball game to be played at the Bob Devaney Sports Center, their home for the last 37 years.
And when the final buzzer sounded, the student section stormed the court one final time as Nebraska knocked off the Golden Gophers 53-51.
But Wednesday night’s victory may have been just a cherry on top for many who attended the final game at the Devaney. A lot of Husker fans were feeling nostalgic and sentimental going into the game.
Jack Aegerter literally “helped tear down the hog barns” and “helped build the Devaney Center” as a member of the State Fair Board back in 1976. Aegerter watched the first game played in “The Bob” and he was excited that he was able to attend the final game as well.
Another fan, Jerry Wolpa, said he prefers “this building to the new arena” because of who the building was named after. Wolpa said Bob Devaney was a friend of his that “helped put Nebraska on the map”.
Many of the other fans said their best memories of the Devaney were from when Nebraska upset old Big Eight and Big Twelve rival Kansas and more recently when the Huskers knocked off Texas in 2011 and Indiana last year.
Many fans said they were sad to see this era at the Devaney pass but a change in venues was needed and will be exciting, and they are happy for Nebraska’s women’s volleyball team which will begin playing in a renovated Devaney Center next year.
The University made sure to put on a show for the final crowd, who were part of 6.1 million people to watch a Husker game at the Devaney Center. Before Nebraska’s starting lineups were introduced, Herbie Husker and a military member repelled from the ceiling. Tribute and Highlight videos were played throughout the night looking back at past Husker victories.
Nebraska also honored past legends who were part of the All-Devaney Center team, which was voted on by the fans. Former Husker greats Dave Hoppen, Eric Piatkowski and Erik Strickland were honored as they walked across the Devaney Center court at half time. Tyronn Lue and Venson Hamilton were also honored, as they made the team but were unable to attend.
Somewhat overshadowed by the final game at the Devaney Center was that it was also Senior Night.
Olive Ubel, Brandon Ubel’s grandmother, said that she will remember the Devaney Center because she enjoyed watching all of Brandon’s games there. Brandon Ubel was one of three seniors that were honored. Dylan Talley and Andre Almeida were also honored, and the Brazilian national anthem was played before the United States national anthem in honor of Almeida, who is a native of Brazil.
When the game finally tipped off, Nebraska was ready to play as it scored the first bucket of the game and never looked back. Nebraska never trailed in the game, though it was tied six times and Nebraska held just a two-point halftime lead of 23-21.
The Huskers were led by Ubel, who scored 15 points and had two key three point plays down the stretch. The latter of the two came when the game was tied and it gave the Huskers the lead for good. Ubel sealed the Husker win on two free throws with 0.9 seconds remaining in the game.
The Gophers’ Andre Hollins hit the final shot at the Devaney center as he was able to connect on a desperation heave at the buzzer just past mid-court, but by then the game was decided and the student section stormed the court for the final time.
Soon after the final buzzer, Head Coach Tim Miles grabbed the microphone to thank the fans for all of the support, as Ubel and Talley were hoisted into the air by the swarm of fans at mid-court.
Nebraska (14-16 overall, 5-12 in the Big Ten) will play it’s final regular season game at Iowa on Saturday. The Big Ten tournament is March 14-17 in Chicago.