CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Derrick Gordon had 20 points to lead five Massachusetts players in double figures and the Minutemen held on in the final minute to open the Charleston Classic with a 96-90 victory over Nebraska on Thursday.
Gordon scored 12 of his points in the second half as Massachusetts built a 13-point lead with just under 10 minutes to play. The Cornhuskers (3-1) rallied down the stretch, closing to 89-87 with 1:39 left on Tai Webster's foul shots.
Nebraska was down 91-88 moments later, but Gordon stood firm on defense and drew a charging call on Deverell Biggs.
Texas Tech transfer Terran Pettaway led the Cornhuskers with a career-high 28 points.
The Minutemen started 4-0 for the third time in the past four seasons. They'll take on either No. 19 New Mexico or UAB in Friday's semifinals of the eight-team tournament.
Sampson Carter scored 16 points, Cady Lalanne 15, Maxie Esho 13 and Raphiael Puntey 12 for Massachusetts. Chaz Williams, the Minutemen's leading scorer this season, was bottled up most of the way by Nebraska. He managed just seven shots and finished with 10 points, 11 below his average coming in.
The Minutemen used strong runs at the start of each half to put Nebraska on its heels. UMass started the game on an 11-3 run and opened the second half with an 18-10 surge to lead 60-49. Each time, though, Nebraska got back in it.
Nebraska had started 3-0 for the second straight season under coach Tim Miles and looked to keep things going against undefeated Massachusetts. The Minutemen's wins included ACC foe Boston College and SEC opponent LSU.
Massachusetts was still ahead 32-24 when Nebraska bounced back behind Pettaway's outside shooting. He had a jumper and two 3-pointers to draw the Cornhuskers within 35-32. Pettaway's two foul shots a short time later put Nebraska back in front 37-36.
However, Lalanne's inside basket and Seth Berger's foul shots sent the Minutemen to the locker room ahead 42-39.
Pettaway, who sat out last season after transferring, had three 3-pointers and matched his previous career best of 17 points in the first half.