USC and Nebraska like to play it close on the court.
They did two seasons ago, a three-point Nebraska win in Los Angeles.
And again last season, a two-point Nebraska triumph in Lincoln.
So if the first was an isolated incident and the second a coincidence, then Monday marked the trend.
For the third straight season, the Cornhuskers and Trojans played a low-scoring slugfest, only this one lasted two overtimes.
But, again, the Cornhuskers outlasted USC, winning, 64-61, before 3,412 at the Galen Center.
“Three years in a row we’ve lost close games, why? Who knows?” USC Coach Kevin O’Neill said.
Nebraska (2-0) used an 8-0 run in the second overtime to take a 62-56 lead and was able to hang on.
USC (1-1) had its chances.
At the end of regulation with the score tied and 19.1 seconds left, USC had the ball.
Sophomore guard Maurice Jones dished to sophomore forward Dewayne Dedmon for a potential game-winning jump shot, but Dedmon missed.
In the first overtime, the Trojans led by three with less than a minute remaining.
Then Nebraska’s Bo Spencer, who scored a game-high 22 points, received a friendly bounce on a well-defended three-point shot to tie the score with 40.5 seconds left.
Jones untied it with a hanging bank shot in traffic with 6.5 seconds to go.
But on Nebraska’s final possession, USC freshman guard Alexis Moore was called for a foul while diving on the floor for a loose ball.
Nebraska guard Tony McCray made both free throws with 2.8 seconds to tie it, and Jones took the potential winning shot himself this time, only it sailed wide.
“Credit Nebraska,” O’Neill said. “They played well and they played hard, but credit our team.”
He added: “We didn’t get anything out of Dewayne and we still had a chance to win.”
Dedmon, whom O’Neill has touted as a possible NBA lottery pick, struggled in his second game, scoring four points on one-of-six shooting from the field.
Dedmon grabbed 10 rebounds but was saddled for most of the game with four fouls.
The man who shouldered USC’s load was its lone returning starter: Jones.
The 5-foot-7 guard scored only two points in the first half but had 16 in the second, many of them down the stretch.
“I thought Mo really took over the game in the second half,” O’Neill said. “He really needs to do that the whole game.”
Junior forward Aaron Fuller scored 13 points, 10 in the second half, and Moore scored 11.
Neither team led by more than seven points and the differences on the stat sheet were slim, but Nebraska made 17 of 22 free throws while USC made only 12 of 22.
One more time, Coach, why do these teams play so close?
“Both teams defend, both teams execute,” O’Neill said.
Once again, Nebraska did that just a little bit better.