For the second straight game, No. 24 Nebraska put together a dominant second half to run away from an opponent as the Huskers beat Missouri State 85-62 on Monday night.
The game was part of the Hall of Fame Classic at the Sprint Center in Kansas City and comes on the heels of Nebraska’s 80-57 win over Seton Hall last Wednesday in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
The Huskers (4-0) shot 50.8 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from deep while holding the Bears (3-1) to 40.7 percent shooting including 7-of-24 from 3-point range. Nebraska forced 18 turnovers and converted them into 26 points on the other end.
Senior forward Isaac Copeland Jr. led the way with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting (2-of-3 from 3), seven rebounds and four assists. Senior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. added 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting (4-of-8 from 3) and four assists.
Junior forward Isaiah Roby added 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks and sophomore wing Nana Akenten added 11 points in 18 minutes off the bench, shooting 4-of-6 form the field and 3-of-5 from deep.
Senior guard James Palmer Jr. took nine of his 11 field goal attempts from the 3-point line and only connected on two of them, finishing with eight points on 3-of-11 shooting plus five turnovers in 23 minutes. It’s just the third time as a Husker that Palmer has failed to reach double figures, but the rest of the Huskers supplied more than enough offense to pick up the slack for Palmer, the team’s leading scorer.
Nebraska knocked down two early 3s, one by Watson and on by Palmer, but struggled to find cracks in the Missouri State defense as the Huskers missed their first three shots inside the arc and turned the ball over four times before the first media timeout.
Missouri State took its first lead at 7-6 before Nebraska finally got a shot inside to fall, a put-back by senior center Tanner Borchardt. Another offensive rebound by Borchardt led to a 3-pointer by Akenten that put the Huskers back up 11-10. Borchardt took a charge on one end then Akenten hit a runner. Then Roby and Borchardt each blocked a shot and Watson hit a pull-up jumper to put Nebraska up 15-10.
The teams traded buckets to head into the under-12 timeout with Nebraska leading 17-12 then Roby pushed the lead to seven with a layup out of the break. The Bears got one back with a tough finish inside but Nebraska locked down on defense from there, forcing five straight misses. Copeland hit a 3 then scored inside to push Nebraska’s lead to 10 at 24-14, drawing a timeout from Missouri State coach Dana Ford.
The Huskers forced a turnover out of the timeout and went right back to Copeland on the other end. The senior rose up and scored over his man in the paint to cap a personal 7-0 run. Missouri State finally snapped out of its slump, putting together a 12-3 run to pull within three. The Bears shot 4-of-5 during that stretch while the Huskers only mustered one jumper and one free throw by Copeland.
After a quick timeout by Miles to regroup, Watson knocked down a contested corner 3. Roby split a pair of free throws then Thomas Allen Jr. knocked down a 3 to cap a 7-0 run that pushed the lead back to 10 at 36-26. Missouri State hit a 3-pointer and Allen missed jumper to end the half with Nebraska leading 36-29.
Nebraska took more 3-pointers (17) than 2-pointers (15) in the first half and knoll knocked down six of them. Meanwhile, the Huskers held Missouri State to 37.9 percent shooting overall including 4-of-12 from deep.
Nebraska turned the ball over seven times but forced 11 turnovers by the Bears and converted them into 16 points. Watson and Copeland led the Huskers with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting apiece.
Missouri State knocked down a couple of triples early in the second half to pull within five at 40-35, but that’s as close as the Bears would get as Watson answered with a 3 of his own and then a 7-0 run soon after put the Huskers up 50-37.
Missouri State pulled within nine a couple of times but Nebraska delivered the knockout blow with a 20-5 run capped by a layup from junior walk-on Johnny Trueblood that gave the Huskers an 84-58 lead with just over two minutes to play.
The Huskers shot 58.6 percent form the field and 7-16 (43.8 percent) from 3, only turned the ball over three times and put up 49 points in the second half. Keandre Cook led the Bears with 22 points but it took him 19 shots to get there and he turned the ball over four times as well.
The Huskers will return to the court at the Sprint Center on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. to play Texas Tech in the tournament championship game on ESPN2. The Red Raiders outscored USC 55-31 in the second half to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit and win 78-63. Four players accounted for 70 of Texas Tech’s 78 points.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.