3 Takeaways from Nebraska's 68-66 Win Over Clemson
Photo Credit: Joshua S. Kelly

3 Takeaways from Nebraska’s 68-66 Win Over Clemson

November 27, 2018

Nebraska (6-1) got a huge win Monday night in knocking off Clemson (5-2) 68-66 in the first true road game of the season. Here are three quick reactions to the win.

A Bullet Point Win

A week ago when Nebraska lost to Texas Tech in the championship match of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, I wrote that it was the kind of game you can’t lose if you want to be taken seriously as a basketball threat.

Monday night’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge game fit that billing even more. An ESPN2 game for the viewing public not quite invested in a Texans-Titans NFL game. And Clemson made sure Nebraska knew right from the opening minutes that if it was to leave Littlejohn Coliseum with a win, it would be earned.

A minute and a half into the game, forward Isaiah Roby took a shoe right to the face, then to the midsection.

The game was physical. Maybe more so than any the Huskers have played in this season. Perimeter pressure frustrated Nebraska guards James Palmer Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr. throughout the first half and the offense struggled. Nebraska didn’t hit a shot over the last five minutes.

But the Huskers just ground this one out. Palmer ended up leading the way offensively with a red-hot second half. He scored 14 of his 20 after halftime and most were off drives to the bucket. A defensive board taken coast-to-cost ended in a Palmer dunk. He then followed it up with a deep triple. From then on, he lived in the paint.

Both teams shot similar percentages from the field and 3-point line — Nebraska at 47 and 32 percent and Clemson at 49 and 33 percent. Both teams kept the turnovers down and got to the free throw line at decent rates. The rebounding battle was close (Clemson won 30-29) and both benches supplied some buckets but not a lot.

It seems fitting Nebraska had a two-point advantage in points in the paint and won by two.

It was that kind of game. And Nebraska survived. Those resume-building wins Nebraska didn’t have last season? This is one of them.

Cope Good

If Nebraska goes, it will be Isaac Copeland driving them.

I think that much has been made clear early on this season. James Palmer Jr. is a great scorer when he plays his game — meaning don’t take 3s off the dribble — but Copeland does absolutely everything for this team.

Against the Tigers, Copeland powered things with 16 points (6-for-11 FG), six boards and three assists.

He’s a matchup nightmare for anyone, with post moves to go to work against smaller defenders on the block, a mid-range game that’s his bread and butter and an improved 3-point shot. When you’re a springy 6-foot-9 forward who can score at all three levels, you’re going to be a tough cover for most programs.

And then there’s the defense. Copeland is never late on his rotations, never slow to help, never caught out of position. He’s got a near-plus-50 net rating this season.

And here he is under a minute to play creating what was likely the play of the game.

That was a four-point swing that proved huge. Nebraska was able to play the free throw game because of it.

Shot Generation Still an Issue

Nebraska had just 10 assists on 26 made buckets. Palmer played 36 minutes with no assists and four turnovers. Watson only had two assists.

With the rotation looking shortened in big games — only seven guys played more than five minutes — Nebraska needs its stars to be able to generate better offense than what is currently happening.

It’s a lot of “beat your guy then make the right play” action, which is fine when you beat your guy. But if you don’t beat your guy, you get into a ton of throwing the ball around on the perimeter and possessions taken deep into the shot clock ending with desperation shots. There was a lot of that Monday night.

Nebraska hit triples (an issue this year) but the offense still looks like it’s not operating on all cylinders.

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