Nebraska (4-0) took down Missouri State (3-1) 85-62 in the first semifinal of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City on Monday night. Here are three quick reactions to the Huskers’ win.
More Than a One-Man Show
Last season, James Palmer Jr. was the engine that powered Nebraska to a 22-11 record. Nebraska absolutely was more than just Palmer but the then-junior guard drew all the attention.
Nebraska this season has been so much more than Palmer. He had 29 in a win over Seton Hall last Wednesday but was limited to seven first-half minutes Monday night and a 3-for-11 shooting performance.
It meant absolutely nothing and Nebraska rolled to a double-digit win.
Let’s start with senior forward Isaac Copeland, who followed up a 16-point, 10-rebound performance against Seton Hall with a 23-point explosion. Copeland took over with 10 straight Nebraska points in the first half and continued to punish the Bears in the second half.
Missouri State didn't really have an answer for Copeland, who punished smaller defenders and took bigger guys out away from the cup to knock down jumpers. The former 5-star recruit shot 9-for-14 from the floor, added seven boards, four assists, a block and a steal.
“Good Glynn” continued to be a thing as senior point guard Glynn Watson kept up his hot start to the season. He’s 25-for-42 from the floor (6-for-11 Monday night) and 13-for-23 (4-for-8 Monday night) from 3 to begin the season after shooting career lows from both spots last season.
Watson opened the night by stepping into a contested triple from straight away and buried it. He finished with 16 points and four assists against just two turnovers. The numbers have been one thing, but his continued confidence in that jumper and his offensive game has been huge.
The team hit 39 percent from downtown, 13-for-33 overall, with five guys getting in on the action. Head coach Tim Miles will be pretty pleased with that.
Taking Care of Business
Nebraska came in at No. 24 in the latest Coaches Poll. It moved up to 26th in the AP Poll. Against a good Missouri State team, there probably wouldn't have been too much grumbling if Nebraska dropped a game. The Huskers have started 4-0 just twice in Miles' tenure in Lincoln.
But NU trailed for a grand total of 58 seconds and completely ran away from the Bears late. Over a five minute stretch late in the second half, Nebraska went on a 20-5 run to blow things open. It looked a lot like the way it closed out Seton Hall last week. The Huskers turned defense into offense and generated some major momentum plays, like an Isaiah Roby block turned into a Nana Akenten triple and a Palmer-to-Copeland jam.
Nebraska entered the day with the best scoring defense in the country while holding opponents to the lowest true shooting percentage in the country. Credit the Huskers' length for a lot of that and it was on display again Monday night.
The Bears scored more points than Nebraska has given up in any game this season, but shot 41 percent from the floor, 29 percent from 3 and committed 18 turnovers in doing so. That’s still a pretty good night on the other end for the Huskers
The Huskers lost the rebounding battle (38-34), gave up more paint points (32-26) and yet still kept the Bears off the free throw line (only nine total attempts).
Nebraska is beating teams this season by an average of nearly 42 points and has back-to-back 23-point wins. Another day at the office. Next to face what is looking more and more like a buzz-saw: USC or Texas Tech.
Speaking of Isaiah Roby, the junior forward picked quite the time to go off.
Whether it was a bothersome heel from the offseason or foul trouble, Roby had been limited through the first three games. He hadn't played more than 22 minutes yet and hadn't taken more than five shots in a game.
Well, welcome back Roby. He had 13 on the night and went for 10 in the second half alone. He shot 4-for-9 while adding seven boards, four assists and three blocks. All were season-highs. Oh, and he didn't turn the ball over once.
Roby remains Nebraska's most-intriguing prospect at the next level. He's a springy, switchable defender that spent all offseason expanding his range and working on his handle. Palmer will be Palmer this season and the other guys need to hit shots, but Roby will always be the guy that opposing coaches will talk about.
Blocks and poster dunks are tremendous momentum plays and Roby supplies both. He supplied both in that second half and it got Nebraska off and running. When he's on the floor for Nebraska, it just opens up so much. Keeping him on the floor will be key moving forward and Roby did his part Monday night.
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.