Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Becca Mann
Huskers hold on with clutch plays on both ends of the court
The Nebraska men’s basketball topped Rutgers 60-54 Wednesday night to split a pair of Big Ten road games after falling to Ohio State on Monday in Columbus.
The Huskers were driven by a powerful performance from Isaac Copeland, who led both teams with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field. The forward also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, one assist and a steal in one of his best games as a Husker.
After a career-high 34 points in his previous appearance, guard James Palmer Jr. chipped in 18 points, 6 rebounds and a pair of blocks against the Scarlet Knights.
The win improves Nebraska to 15-8 overall and 6-4 in the Big Ten.
Glynn Watson Jr. added 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal on the night. While Watson wasn’t the lead scorer for the team, the timing and placement of his shots helped Nebraska late in the game.
“A lot of different guys stepped up and a lot of different guys contributed,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “Two of the usual suspects are James Palmer and Isaac Copeland, but then the plays Glynn made with the power layup and then the charge, we don’t win without those plays. That was huge.”
A layup with 29 seconds to play put Nebraska up 56-52, and 15 seconds later, Watson drew a charge from Rutgers’ Corey Sanders to ultimately put the game out of reach.
“I just tried to stay aggressive,” Watson said of his performance. “I still haven’t been shooting well, but coach [Tim] Miles told me to stay aggressive. And my teammates, they believe in me to stay aggressive, so I have to do that.”
Wednesday started off slow for NU with two missed shots by Copeland and Palmer, and a foul by Isaiah Roby in the first minute of play. Watson broke the seal to open the scoring for NU, but it still was slow going early on.
Nebraska took a 27-25 lead heading into half with Palmer and Copeland accounting for 22 of the team’s points. Watson added four and Roby made a free throw.
Rutgers came out of the locker room and got a 3-pointer from guard Geo Baker just 19 seconds into the half. However, the momentum didn’t last long as NU went on a 10-0 run a few minutes later to take a 41-32 lead. The Scarlet Knights answered with a 10-3 run, which cut the lead to two, but was unable to close the gap during the remainder of the game. Rutgers did not get back to even or lead after that point.
With seven seconds left in the game, Sanders made a layup for the Scarlet Knights, but a pair of Palmer free throw sealed the win for the Huskers. Nebraska went 13-of-16 from the line, with the final serving as the final .
Sanders led the Rutgers charge with 14 points, followed by Baker and forward Deshawn Freeman with 10 points apiece. Freeman added 10 rebounds to record a double-double.
The Huskers won the shooting battle, mostly due to what NU did on defense. Nebraska ended the night with a 39.6 shooting percentage and held Rutgers to 33.8 percent. The Huskers also led defensive rebounding 26-22 but trailed by eight on the offensive end.
“They missed a lot. They missed on 43 shots so there’s more opportunity,” Miles said about Rutgers outrebounding NU 20-12 on offense. “We’re a soft, weak rebounding team but that’s a big part of their offense.”
Miles said he was happy with his team’s 11 second-chance points that trailed the Scarlet Knights by just three. The Huskers also committed fewer fouls (9-12) while shooting 5-of-18 at the three-point line compared to RU’s 2-of-12 efforts.
“This was a tough one,” he said. “I’m happy and we’re going back to an Iowa team that has won two out of three, and is kind of short in their rotation. They look good and we’ll have to be at our best and get some rest.”
Nebraska hosts Iowa at 7 p.m. on Saturday in the first of just five games remaining at home this season.