Nebraska fell to Central Florida 68-59 in the first round of the AdvoCare Invitational on Thursday evening thanks to another extended scoring drought.
Nebraska (3-2) shot 21-of-61 from the field overall including 6-of-21 from deep and attempted just 13 free throws.
The Knights used a 19-0 run in the first half to take control as Nebraska shot 1-of-16 from the field during that stretch before James Palmer Jr. finally snapped the run with a layup. At the end of the first half, the Huskers trailed 36-20.
Junior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. scored or assisted on all seven (yes, the Huskers only made seven) of Nebraska’s field goals in the first half. Overall, the Huskers shot 23 percent from the field including 2-of-13 from deep and turned the ball over eight times in the first half.
After taking just two shots in the first half, Palmer scored on each of Nebraska’s first two possessions to open the second. Watson and sophomore center Jordy Tshimanga each converted to make it an 8-3 run by the Huskers to cut the deficit to 11.
Central Florida scored the next two buckets to stretch it back to 15, but Palmer got a dunk after a steal and junior forward Isaac Copeland nailed a 3-pointer to cut it to 10. Nebraska couldn’t string together enough buckets and stops over the next five minutes to draw any closer until Palmer put together his own 5-0 run to make it a single-digit game at 49-41 for the first time since the first 10 minutes of the game.
The teams traded empty possessions until Tshimanga scored on a cutback to pull Nebraska within six with just under five minutes to play, but Nebraska never got any closer.
The teams traded scores to maintain the two-to-three score gap until a 7-2 spurt by Central Florida with just over a minute to play served as the dagger.
Palmer came alive in the second half for 20 of his 22 points, shooting 8-of-13 from the field. He played the entire second half, which the Huskers won 39-32. Watson scored just two points in the second half to finish with 11 on 5-of-17 shooting (1-of-7 from 3) but also dished out seven assists with just one turnover.
After scoring 30 points against North Dakota, Copeland shot just 3-of-10 for eight points on Thursday. Tshimanga grabbed 10 rebounds and scored six points but turned the ball over four times in his first seven minutes and fouled out after just 24 minutes of action while dealing with Central Florida’s 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall.
Nebraska got just five points off its bench, all from senior Anton Gill. Freshman guard Thomas Allen returned after missing the last two games and played four minutes, missing both of his shot attempts.
The Huskers will begin consolation bracket play Friday at 6 p.m. against the loser of No. 23 West Virginia and Marist. The game will be available to stream on ESPN3.
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.