SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Nebraska moved to 9-2 on its season (1-1 Big Ten) with a 79-56 win over Oklahoma State (4-6) Sunday inside a packed Sanford Pentagon.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
A Contending Close
Boy oh boy, did Nebraska look a team that had been off for a week when it opened play against Oklahoma State. Not only was Sunday’s game Nebraska’s first since last Saturday’s emotional win over Creighton, it was the first time several Huskers had even seen the court. Guard Amir Harris stayed home with an illness that also limited guard Thomas Allen Jr. and forward Isaiah Roby. All three missed practice during the week.
It all showed.
Oklahoma State’s length and uber-aggressive defense to open the game made Nebraska uncomfortable, but the Huskers also looked lethargic running their stuff. Guard Glynn Watson Jr. had a season-high for turnovers within the games first 10 minutes and over a five-minute stretch midway through the first, Nebraska missed nine of 10 shots.
(Maybe the NBA 3-point line had something to do with that. The Pentagon is also home to the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Miami Heat’s G-League affiliate, and the court had all three 3-point lines on it, a first for Nebraska this year.)
And the offensive struggles morphed into defensive carelessness. Oklahoma State — a top-15 3-point shooting outfit — started creating open looks in the corners and finding dive men underneath the hoop all alone. After a Lindy Waters triple with 3:17 to play for the Cowboys, head coach Tim Miles called time with his team down 28-21.
The Huskers had firmly entered the danger zone (LANA).
Then they raced out of it.
Oklahoma State’s final three possessions consisted of two shot clock violations and an offensive foul. Nebraska’s final four possessions saw three triples splash home from Isaac Copeland, James Palmer Jr., and Watson and another long two from Copeland. An 11-2 run from Nebraska to close put the Huskers up two.
In the kind of situation the Huskers found themselves in, a first half like the one they played can doom a team. Nebraska didn’t let it.
And that momentum that was built from the close? It carried into the second half. Nebraska held the Cowboys 0-for from beyond the arc over the final 20 minutes. They stretched their lead despite shooting sub-40 percent from the floor for a large chunk of the half.
Mainly, the defense showed up again; this is the fifth time this season Nebraska has held an opponent under 60 points.
What’s Gotten Into You, James?
James, we need to talk.
You cannot do that to teams while also putting up the scoring lines you are putting up. It’s not fair. What are defenses to do?
Because you are scoring a lot of points.
You had 30 your last time out against Creighton and you did it by hitting 9-of-12 from the field. In this business, that’s what we call en fuego.
But then you followed it up with 29 points against the Cowboys. Should Oklahoma State say thanks for helping them out and missing a couple more (6-for-17 shooting)? Probably not, because you’re still shooting out of your mind from distance.
Yeah, you, James, have now hit nine of your last 11 triples. You were shooting 23 percent from range two games ago. What happened? You made 6-of-7 against the Jays and everyone said, “That won’t continue,” but then you turned around and made your first three triples against the Cowboys and finished with just one miss from distance.
Now you’re dropping dimes, too?
Even after the rough start to the season, you’re still enjoying a career-high for scoring through 11 games and your net rating of nearly plus-25 is obliterating your previous career-high of plus-9.6 because your defense has picked up.
Maybe cut it out.
Signed, future Big Ten opponents getting ready to scout you.
(In all seriousness, Palmer was tremendous again Sunday. He was Nebraska’s offensive and defensive catalyst and you can’t really say both too often. Palmer got the free throw line at will, finishing with 14 makes on 15 attempts. When Palmer is as judicious with his shot selection as he was Sunday, he’s just a nightmare for defenses. You want him shooting 3s but what do you do when he’s making them? Oklahoma State could probably answer that.)
Nonconference, No Problems
What was the reason for keeping the Huskers out of the NCAA Tournament a season ago? Most will tell you it was a lack of quality wins. Nebraska won 22 games in the Big Ten and it didn’t matter because the conference was down and the nonconference failed the Huskers.
After the Huskers officially learned their fate, Miles vowed he’d overschedule in the nonconference this season. No bottom of the barrel teams, Nebraska would make certain wins would bring with them no doubt the Big Red belonged.
Well, Nebraska has officially wrapped every major name on its nonconference slate for this season with only one blemish. They’ve got a home win over KenPom No. 39 Creighton, a road win over No. 41 Clemson, a home win over No. 58 Seton Hall and a neutral site win now over No. 65 Oklahoma State.
The only nonconference loss came against Texas Tech on a neutral floor, and Tech is currently sitting inside KenPom’s top-10.
Win in league play and Nebraska should get in no problems. It earned as much with its nonconference success.
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.