Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Watson goes off to lead Nebraska to first Big Ten win
It’s rare for a point guard to lead a Big Ten team in rebounds in a conference matchup.
But there was little Glynn Watson didn’t do as part of a 29-point effort to guide Nebraska to an upset of No. 14 Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Watson had a team-high 9 rebounds, including two on the offensive end, and hit 6-of-8 from the field on the way to 20 second-half points. Nebraska also got 12 points from Isaac Copeland, and had all nine players that saw action score at least 4 points. That balance allowed NU to outscore a physical Minnesota team 32-28 in the paint, and grind out a much-needed win in this early window of Big Ten play.
Nebraska coach Tim Miles said he was proud of the way the team responded to a blowout loss at No. 3 Michigan State, and that Watson’s ability to get inside and open up the lane was the key to the Huskers’ offensive efficiency.
“Talk about Glynn, 29-and-9, 3 steals, 2 assists: This is the all-conference Glynn,” Miles said. “The fact that we got in the paint, and were effective there, was huge.”
Watson’s scorching start to the second half helped the Huskers turn a 39-31 lead at the break into a 17-point advantage inside the final five minutes of the game.
After making just three of his eight shots in the first half, Watson put on a scoring exhibition over the first 6:12 of the second half. Watson had a personal 7-0 spurt thanks to a jump shot, a 3-pointer and a layup, then made two free throws before finally missing his first shot of the period.
A Watson jump shot with 6:09 to go in the game pushed the lead back to 17, but Minnesota answered with two free throws less than 10 seconds later. Watson made sure he kept the momentum in NU’s favor, though, when he picked Dupree McBrayer’s pocket and took the steal in for an uncontested basket.
On the heels of the loss at Michigan State, Watson said that Tuesday’s win showed what Nebraska is capable of.
“I feel like this is our team,” he said. “When guys share the ball, and get each other open, it makes it easier. We keep on doing that, I don’t think there will be too many teams that can beat us.”
But there were still at least a few areas to improve, including Watson’s uncontested layup. Copeland thought Watson could have done more, saying it “should have been a dunk,” while the 6-foot-tall Watson thought he did enough that it should have been scored as such.
“I touched the rim,” Watson said.
Balance on offense powered Nebraska to that 8-point lead at the half.
All nine Huskers that played scored in the half and earned trips to the free throw line. Nebraska hit 11-of-13 from the stripe in the first half, and were led by 9 points each from Copeland and Watson. Copeland only missed one of his four shots, connected on a pair of 3-pointers, and was part of the defensive effort that helped NU limit Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy to 1-of-7 shooting and just 4 points.
Nebraska’s bench outscored Minnesota 9-0 before the break, including Thomas Allen draining a corner 3-pointer, his only shot of the half, to inject a shot of energy into the Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd.
That energy continued after the break when Watson orchestrated the second half surge, and was on full display when James Palmer Jr. hit a 3-pointer with 3:42 to put NU up 70-53.
Minnesota managed a small run to make it interesting, cutting the lead to 10 on a 3-pointer with 1:44 to go. However, unlike past editions of Nebrasketball, NU came up clutch at the free throw line and hit 8-of-10 in the final two minutes to keep Minnesota from putting any real pressure on the Huskers.
Now, Nebraska heads back out on the road when the Huskers head to Omaha and a matchup with a Creighton team that is receiving votes in both polls. Tip-off is set for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at the CenturyLink Center.