It was a barnstormer at The Barn, but the Huskers (18-8, 9-4 Big Ten) came away with a 91-85 victory over Minnesota (14-12, 3-10 Big Ten) thanks to a balanced scoring effort.
Here are three takeaways from the evening.
Starting to Learn How to Close
Forgive me if I’m reopening old wounds, but Nebraska has struggled to close this season. There’s no hiding from that fact. The Huskers surrendered a corner 3 for the win against Kansas and faded down the stretch at Purdue, at Ohio State and at Penn State. Those hurt.
But this is a team that might be growing up before our eyes.
Minnesota made things tough — like tying the game at 62 with just under 10 to go and then hitting a barrage of threes late to try and crawl back in — but for the second game in a row, Nebraska closed.
They did it at the free throw line against Wisconsin on Jan. 29. The formula was slightly different against the Gophers but the end result was the same. Nebraska ground out a win.
Sure, the current version of Minnesota isn’t the same as when the season started, but a road win in the Big Ten is a road win in the Big Ten. It holds weight. The Huskers are now 3-0 in their last three trips away from Lincoln. They’re looking for bullet points on the tournament resume and need all the wins they can get. Figuring out a few things about how to close games away from home is a really good place to start.
Sharing the Sugar
Nebraska has a bona fide stud in guard James Palmer Jr. The 6-foot-6 Miami transfer is playing like an All-Big Ten player for the Huskers, and in games past, they’ve needed every last point he had.
They didn’t need him to be a star against the Gophers. Now, Palmer was still excellent in an outing abbreviated by foul trouble — he had 19 points, a career-high nine assists and seven rebounds despite playing with four fouls — but he wasn’t the same other-worldly player he’s been in recent games.
Instead, the Huskers got even production from the entire starting five and then some.
Forward Isaiah Roby threw down alley-oop after alley-oop en route to a career-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Guard Anton Gill was in a slump; he’d scored eight points in his last four games. Against the Gophers, he popped off for 12 points, the most he’s scored since Dec. 29.
Forward Isaac Copeland added 12, guard Glynn Watson added 10 and the Huskers got 19 points out of their three bench players (Evan Taylor hit another three!).
As a team, the Huskers shot 51 percent from the field — the highest in any road game this season — knocked down 11 triples and converted 18 of their 22 looks at the charity stripe. In stark contrast to the Gophers (56 points from two players), Nebraska got this one done as a unit offensively.
Time to Believe
It’s win No. 18 on the season, win No. 9 in conference play and it sets the Huskers up for quite the finish.
Four of Nebraska’s final five games will come at home, where it has lost once in 13 games. The Huskers have won four straight and six of their last seven.
BTN’s Robbie Hummel said before the game that if the Huskers can get to 14 wins in conference play, they should be a tournament team.
The “glass half empty” crowd will say don’t believe it until you see it, but this game feels like the turning point. It’s time to believe.
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.