Nebraska (5-1) downed the Western Illinois Leathernecks (2-4) Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena 73-49 in a nice bounceback after its first loss of the season last Tuesday. Here are three quick reactions to the win.
Good Job, Good Effort
We’re still getting through the games on the schedule where anything short of a blowout would cause alarm. Which means blowouts won’t tell you much. Western Illinois entered Saturday 143rd in Division I basketball in offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) and 98th in defensive rating. Okay team, but Nebraska needed to roll.
And with a trip to No. 16 Clemson (5-1) on Monday, Nebraska could have come out flat, looking ahead. The Leathernecks went up 4-9 in the first five minutes and Nebraska turned it over twice.
Then Nebraska rolled.
The defense kicked in, transition opened up, shots kept falling (Nebraska shot 57 percent in the first half) and Nebraska pulled away. A 23-5 run over an 11:15 stretch in the first half broke the game open. The Huskers took as big as a 33-point lead in the second half and WIU never got it back under 19 once Nebraska got out to the races.
It was a lot of the usual suspects. Nebraska played terrific interior defense, used active hands on the perimeter and used every opportunity to get out and run on the break. Head coach Tim Miles' offense flourishes in transition and the Huskers were good once again, scoring 19 points off 14 WIU turnovers and getting 17 points on the fastbreak.
Guard James Palmer Jr. took five 3s, all of which he missed, but they came early and once it was clear they weren't going to fall, Palmer put his head down and attacked. He finished with 19 points (7-for-18 FG) with four boards, two assists and no turnovers. After foul trouble his last time out, Palmer played 34 minutes with only two personals.
Guard Glynn Watson gave the Huskers a season-high 20 points (8-for-10 FG, 2-for-3 3P), a career-high nine boards and two assists.
A good day, now make it carry over to Clemson.
A Bounceback for Roby, Too
Junior forward Isaiah Roby had six points and six boards in 37 minutes against Texas Tech in a loss last Tuesday. He only took five shots and disappeared for stretches. The common complaint with Roby is that he "doesn't know how good he is yet" therefore he doesn't exert himself.
He's long, tall, strong and athletic. He's Nebraska's best pro prospect in a long, long time and there are times where he looks too passive.
Not the case Saturday. Nebraska's first possession of the game isolated him on the low block, he spun baseline and flipped the first two points of the game up and in.
Roby took a season-high 10 shots. He didn't shoot great but it was the simple fact he was shooting. Roby took 3s off the dribble in transition. He took spot-up 3s when he had space and when his defender closed, drove hard around him.
He wasn't in foul trouble (one personal) and didn't turn it over much (one also). He made skip passes cross-court — the right passes at the right time — and kicked to corner shooters off the dribble. He finished with nine points and seven boards.
Roby looked aggressive.
Nebraska made an attempt to help that by initiating the offense through him in the post early and often, but Roby had a hand in it too. Western Illinois center Brandon Gilbeck was a true center in every sense and Roby had the athleticism advantage.
He used it and looked as strong as he's looked all season.
Defcon… Something With the Shooting
Shooting 4-of-20 overall from 3 is not going to make Miles happy.
Palmer was cold again, as he’s now 7-for-39 on the season.
Outside of Watson, none of Nebraska’s “shooters” looked like shooters.
The Huskers are 163rd nationally in 3-point percentage (34.8 percent) on the season and that number is coming down after this one. They’re one of the best teams in the country in terms of limiting triples and keeping opponent percentages low, so they’re not getting buried by it on the other end, but starting to hit some of their triples would open up so much more offensively.
It would make the four-out, Roby-driven offense even deadlier. It would mean the bench lineup with Watson, Palmer, Amir Harris and Nana Akenten surrounding Tanner Borchardt would see more time. (The Huskers went to that for one of the first times this season and it held up quite well.)
Maybe Clemson’s 209th ranked 3-point defense will be what the docter ordered.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.