IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Nebraska senior guard Brandon Richardson insists he's much happier with assists than buckets.
When the Huskers needed Richardson to be more selfish, he responded with the best offensive game of his career.
Richardson scored a season-high 25 points on 6 of 7 shooting from 3-point range and Nebraska rallied to beat Iowa 79-73 Thursday night for the program's first Big Ten road win.
Bo Spencer added 16 for the Huskers (11-9, 3-6 Big Ten), who bounced back from an ugly loss to Ohio State with their third win in five games.
"He kept us in the ballgame (Thursday) offensively. He always keeps us in the game defensively," Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said of Richardson. "He was open, and that's one thing Brandon does. He takes good shots."
Nebraska used a late 14-4 run to take a 70-65 lead with just under three minutes left. Three-pointers from Matt Gatens and Eric May brought the Hawkeyes within two, but Toney McCray hit two free throws with 27 seconds left and Iowa couldn't answer against Nebraska's defense, which made a late but effective switch to zone.
The Hawkeyes allowed Nebraska to score 48 points in the second half, an ugly number given that the Huskers entered play averaging just 60.7 points a night.
"We couldn't get stops," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. 'It's disappointing because defensively, that's about as bad as you can play."
Zach McCabe matched a career high with 20 points for the Hawkeyes (11-10, 3-5), who led by as much as 11 in the first half.
This was the first meeting in 36 years between these border-state schools, who will now see each other at least once a season.
Iowa will always remember the reunion as the one it let get away.
McCabe, who'd been brilliant all night, picked up his fourth foul with 5:29 left. Nebraska's Brandon Ubel hit two free throws that tied the game at 61-all, and Richardson hit a crucial 3-pointer from the elbow to give the Huskers a 66-63 lead with 4:34 remaining.
Dylan Talley then capped a 14-4 run with a jumper and a runner over Devyn Marble to make it 70-65 Huskers with 2:36 left. Iowa had its chances to tie the game once again, but the Hawkeyes couldn't convert them.
Richardson finished 9 of 10 shooting from the floor and added five assists against one turnover after averaging just 6.5 points a game this season.
"He's one of our better shooters and for us to have chance, he has to shoot," Sadler said.
Nebraska delivered a strong start, hitting nine of its first 12 shots. Yet the Huskers still found themselves down 25-19 midway through the first half.
McCabe, who'd scored in double figures just four times in Iowa's first 16 games, crossed that mark for the third straight game in just 13 minutes. McCabe then followed a layup with a block on Toney McCray and Bryce Cartwright's long jumper to put the Hawkeyes up 31-20.
Faced with their first crucial moment of the night, the Huskers responded with an 8-0 run and went into the break trailing 38-31. Nebraska opened the second half on a 10-1 run to take a brief 41-40 lead.
Eric May helped rally the Hawkeyes with a jarring block on Nebraska's Bo Spencer and seldom-used reserve Devon Archie stunned the crowd by spinning out of traffic in the lane for a monster dunk to put Iowa up 50-43 midway through the final half.
From there, the Hawkeyes seemed poised to methodically put the Huskers behind them. However, they never did, allowing Nebraska to inch back into the game and ultimately take it over down the stretch.
Marble scored 15 for the Hawkeyes and Gatens had 12 points, while McCabe posted a season high in points for the second straight game.
"He's mixing it up," McCaffery said of McCabe. "He's not a turnover guy anymore, so I think what that's done is helped his confidence."
But McCabe didn't get enough help, especially from fellow sophomore Melsahn Basabe, who McCaffery called out after the game for not giving any effort in a 13-minute performance that netted just one point.
The Huskers got a career night from Richardson and gave him help, punctuating a stretch where they've quietly started playing better ball.
"Overall it's a great, great win for this basketball team, to go on the road and win a conference game against a team that I didn't think played that badly," Sadler said.
Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter @LukeMeredithAP