Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Becca Mann
Strong start puts Huskers in control for good
Isaiah Roby acknowledged that the Nebraska men’s basketball had a lot on its mind this week, but the Huskers were able to turn their full attention to the court on Saturday afternoon in a win over Rutgers.
A 67-55 win over the Scarlet Knights advances NU to 19-8 on the season and 10-4 in the Big Ten. Nebraska’s start to conference play is the first time since the 1975-76 season, when Nebraska played in the Big 8, that the team has gone 10-4 or better through 14 games.
The day began with the team debuting t-shirts that read “Hate will never win,” and showed a video of the team speaking out against racism and intolerant behavior. The actions came after a video of a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student became the center of a free speech debate on campus after posting videos sympathizes with white nationalist views.
“The coaches did a good job of keeping us focused, we had a lot of stuff to think about off the court but once we got on the court it’s all basketball. They did a good job of that,” Roby said about the team’s approach to Saturday’s game.
On the court, the Huskers benefited from a balanced effort, which helped spark a 16-point run in both the first and second halves to close in on their fifth straight win of the season. Four Huskers ended the day in double-digit scoring, including sophomore Roby’s second double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds. James Palmer led the force with 15 points while chipping in five rebounds of his own.
Nebraska started the game with a different tone than most of the season and pushed its way to an 11-2 lead in the first five minutes, before extending to 16 with 12:35 left in the first half. Rutgers looked to Corey Sanders and Deshawn Freeman, cutting the lead to 27-22 before Nebraska pushed to 37-28 at the half.
“The first half I was worried because we had given up the lead,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “The second half though I felt we played well with the lead and we had earned the lead. I was pleased with the team and their demeanor.”
The Huskers continued to build the lead coming out of halftime, using a 10-0 run to take another 16-point lead in at 48-32. Nebraska’s largest lead of the night came with just under seven minutes to play as the Huskers pushed it to 19-points and sealed the fate of a Scarlet Knight squad now 12-15 overall and 2-12 in the Big Ten.
Nebraska shot 45.5 percent on the night, leading second chance points 18-17 and points off turnovers 15-11. The Scarlet Knights were held to 34.8 percent shooting with seven missed three-pointers in the second half.
Rutgers edged out the rebound battle 43-39, but it was the 21-12 advantage on the offensive end that caught the attention of Miles.
“Offensive rebounding is just like transition or 3-point shooting for another team,” he said. “They teach it, they play to it, but the fact we outscored them on second chance points was pretty good.”
He said blocked shots from Duby Okeke and Roby were factors in saving Nebraska from suffering from lost rebounds.
“That is a weakness of our game,” Miles said. “I’m willing to try and get better at that or hang around on the boards and hopefully it pays off in other ways.”
The Huskers now turn their focus to a Tuesday night match up against Maryland (17-10 overall, 6-8 Big Ten.) Saturday’s win moved NU into the No. 4 position in the Big Ten with the Terrapins sitting at No. 9 after taking down Northwestern at home. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
“I reminded them [the team] we haven’t beat Maryland yet at home. They’re a good team. They played well today and we’re going to have to be at our best for that game on Tuesday.”