Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Transfer duo explodes to lead efficient Husker charge
After a tough performance on the road against St. Johns last Thursday, the Nebraska men’s basketball team (3-1) returned in full force Sunday to pick up a 92-70 win against the University of North Dakota.
Highlighting the day was forward Isaac Copeland and guard Anton Gill, both whom are returning to the court after spending last season battling injuries. Copeland hit 12-of-14 to lead all scorers with 30 points in his best performance as a Husker. Gill did his part off the bench, hitting 4-5 from 3-point range, and led Nebraska to a convincing win back on its home court.
“To see them really explode, I’m just so happy for them,” Miles said. “I know what a relief it is and how exciting it is for them. They deserve it. They work every day, they’ve struggled without any groaning and griping, they just have stayed with it so hopefully this is the start of the beginning.”
If this really is the start of something for these two offensively, Nebraska fans could be in for a real treat this season.
In the team’s game at St. Johns on Thursday, Copeland struggled in all areas around the basket and scored just 5 points. Gill also played a key role against the Red Storm with Glynn Watson in foul trouble, but still managed just 7 points. However, that was far from the story on Sunday afternoon.
Copeland came out strong to start the game, tallying 19 points and shooting 8-9 from the field during his 16 minutes of play in the first half.
The junior, who transferred from Georgetown, added 8 rebounds to his 30 points, and fell just two shy of a career-high 32 points he scored for the Hoyas in a game against Marquette in March of last year. In addition to shooting 85.7 percent from the field, Copeland hit 3-of-4 from 3-point range and from the free throw line.
“I wanted to be aggressive,” Copeland said about his offensive performance. “To be honest, I’m taking a lot of the same shots, maybe more at the rim, I’ve been taking. They just happened to fall today.”
Defensively, Copeland nabbed a team-high five rebounds. Most notably was senior guard Evan Taylor who spent Sunday’s game matched up against North Dakota guard Geno Crandall, who entered the day averaging 27.3 points per game. In his efforts, Taylor held Crandall to just 3 points in the first half and 10 in the second. Crandall finished making just 30 percent from the field, with seven of his points coming from free throws.
Fighting Hawk guard Marlon Stewart accounted for 20 of the team’s points, and forward Conner Avants contributed 16 more.
Gill and Roby also had stand-out offensive performances for Nebraska. On top of Gill’s 16 points, Roby was able to add 11 points and 2 blocks, bringing his season total to 10, the most of any player on the roster.
The sophomore forward said it feels good to improve defensively, and knows the team is capable of performing just as confidently on the other side of the ball. Roby had 8 points in the loss to St. Johns, but said the difference today started with defense and carried onto the other end of the court.
“When we get our defense going, our offense is going to come too,” Roby said.
Miles said he was happy to see great performances from those three players, and is looking forward to the rest of his team finding an offensive rhythm to perform at a high level. This rang especially true on a night in which guards Glynn Watson Jr. and James Palmer Jr. combined for just 21 points and eight total rebounds.
“This is what this team has to be. It’s what we haven’t had,” Miles said about his team having other scorers who can fill in. “That’s what the depth is that we’ve talked about all year. The depth has got quality and can make plays.”
Similar to previous games this season, Miles emptied the bench with 14 of his 16 players recording time on the court. The Nebraska bench combined for 31 of the team’s total points.
The Huskers hit the road again later this week, traveling to Orlando, Florida, to take part in the AdvoCare Invitational. Nebraska will take on UCF on Thursday Nov. 23, and West Virginia or Marist on Friday Nov. 24, with the final game set for Sunday Nov. 26.
Miles said it would be great to earn another match up with St. Johns at the tournament. The Red Storm will match up against Oregon State the first day of play and either Missouri or Long Beach State on Friday.
“I think they felt like they were out toughed. They were mentally and physically and emotionally brutalized and we deserved it,” Miles said about his team’s feelings after the Nov. 16 loss. “Best thing in the world would be for us to get another crack at those guys down in Orlando.”