It was the Huskers’ final game before an extended holiday break and Pinnacle Bank Arena wasn’t full, but it was close. Still, fans left happy following an 86-62 Husker win over Cal State Fullerton. Nebraska is now 10-2 (1-1 Big Ten) with one game left to play on its nonconference schedule. The Titans drop to 3-9.
Here are three takeaways from the day.
I don’t know what’s in Tim Miles’ head, but I imagine the head coach is thinking something along the lines of, “Thank goodness we didn’t have this game against Oklahoma State.” Because if they did, Nebraska probably wouldn’t have walked out of the Sanford Pentagon with a 20-point win.
Fullerton is bad. Its three wins are over West Coast Baptist, Cal Lutheran and Monmouth.
Most of the offense was find the first option on a play, have that first option shoot it — contested or not — and if you needed to operate beyond that, panic. Fullerton hustled and that kept it relatively in the game (winning the paint battle 38-22 and the rebound battle 49-38) but the talent disparity showed on the offensive end. The Titans couldn’t crack Nebraska’s defense.
For the Huskers, it looked too much like going through the motions.
Nebraska hovered around 40 percent shooting for much of the game, got nothing from its bench (12 points), got relatively little from its transition game and missed 14 free throws.
Credit to guard James Palmer Jr. for keeping things moving offensively. He went for 23 points (7-for-14 shooting) with four boards in 34 minutes of turnover-free basketball. That’s 82 points in his last three games while connected on 13 of his last 17 triples.
It’s not hard to understand why. The Titans are not a good team, it’s almost Christmas and Nebraska has played through a few trying weeks of basketball. It’s common to get a little lax this late in December and this late in the nonconference.
The defense deserves praise for continuing to lock teams down (the 1-3-1 zone is still working wonders) and a win is a win but this will be one of those tapes you just throw away.
Weird Game for Roby
Isaiah Roby finished with 20 points and eight rebounds and it felt like he wasn’t even close to those numbers.
The forward has taken at least eight shots in a game six times this season (in 12 games, that’s an issue in and of itself). The latest came Saturday. In those six games, he has shot better than 40 percent from the field only three times. On 13 shots against the Titans, Roby hit just five.
He’s a player that gives you a ton in non-traditional categories — he’s an excellent positional defender, has good lateral movement and shot-blocking instincts and hustles for loose balls — but he stands 6-foot-8, is arguably Nebraska’s most athletic player and doesn’t use any of it on offense consistently enough.
Roby was disengaged on the offensive end for basically the first 33 minutes, either floating or catching a pass and immediately looking for a dribble-handoff to a teammate. There was a two-minute-stretch late in the second half where he dropped a jumper in from just under the free throw line, hammered home a dunk and then forced his way to the free throw line on three different possessions. He scored 12 of his points in the last seven-and-a-half minutes of the game.
The question I have is why can’t he play like that for more than just a few minutes a game? Why does it look like he’s either uncomfortable with the ball or unsure of what he needs to do for the majority of his time on the floor?
Being critical of the junior’s game seems to invite criticism because of the effort on the defensive end, but he’s simply got too much potential to be a nine-points-per-game scorer like he has been this year. Saturday’s performance marked a season-high for points scored, that should have been a sigh of relief. “Roby finally had the breakthrough game.” It just didn’t feel like that. It still feels like a struggle to get offense from him.
Time for a Break
Nebraska is off until Dec. 29, when Southwest Minnesota State comes to Pinnacle Bank Arena. Hopefully that time off will re-energize everyone. Winter break basketball is never fun. Neither was coming up with a third take from Saturday’s game.
Oh, here’s one final thought, we’ll end on a high note. Glynn Watson Jr. had a pretty nice game.
The senior point guard picked up the first double-double of his career with a 10-point, 10-assist, one-turnover game. He couldn’t hit a shot (3-for-11) but Watson got his teammates involved as well as he has all season.
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.