Nebraska (6-2) used a hot-shooting first half and a big run late to take down Boston College (5-3) 71-62 in front of 10,742 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Wednesday night.
Nebraska joined Purdue as the only Big Ten teams to pick up a win in this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge through Wednesday’s games.
Four Huskers scored in double figures as Nebraska shot 49.1 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from 3-point range but just 53.3 percent from the free-throw line which hurt the Huskers as they tried to create separation.
"When you go out there and shoot better from the three than you do the foul line, you have a problem,” Coach Tim Miles said. “We have to make our foul shots.”
Junior guard James Palmer Jr. and junior forward Isaac Copeland led the way with 15 points apiece, with 11 of Palmer’s coming in the second half. He also recorded a career-high five steals while Copeland tied his Nebraska high with eight rebounds. Senior guard Evan Taylor finished with a season-high 13 points while shooting a perfect 3-of-3 from 3-point range.
Junior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. finished with 10 points, six assists and zero turnovers in 30 minutes while playing through illness.
“Glynn wasn't feeling well tonight,” Miles said. “He was light-headed all night. For him to go out there and get 10 points, six assists, no turnovers was exceptional … At halftime I was worried [he wouldn’t be able to play].
Nebraska came out firing from the perimeter as seven of their first 10 field goals came from behind the 3-point line. The Huskers took their biggest lead of the first half at 19-10 after back-to-back triples by Anton Gill and Taylor.
Boston College responded with an 8-2 to pull within three and the deficit bounced between seven and two the rest of the half. Leading 39-36 with 1:35 to go in the half, Palmer converted a steal into a layup on the other end then followed it up by finding Watson in the corner for a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to put the Huskers up 44-36 at the half.
Nebraska shot 8-of-13 from downtown in the first half (compared to 7-of-13 inside the arc and 6-of-10 from the free-throw line) and recorded assists on 10 of their 15 field goals. However, the Eagles also shot over 50 percent from the field and out-rebounded Nebraska 17-11 to keep the game close.
"We came out early and I thought we really played well,” Miles said. “We shared the ball. The guys who had open shots, stepped up and made them, like Jack [McVeigh] and Evan are really important setting the tone.”
Taylor, who led the Huskers with 11 points in the first half, picked up his third foul on a charge on the first possession and took a seat, but Gill checked in for him and immediately knocked down another 3-pointer. Watson scored back-to-back buckets to stretch the lead to 11 at 49-38 less than two minutes into the second half.
However, was followed was one of the extended scoring droughts that have plagued the Huskers time and time again as Nebraska went 6:03 without a point, missing seven straight shots as the Eagles reeled off a 9-0 run to pull within two.
Palmer hit a pull-up jumper to end the run, but Nebraska came up empty on its next three possessions and Vin Baker Jr. knocked down a 3 to pull Boston College within one with 10:08 to play.
Nebraska never lost the lead, however, and held a 59-57 advantage with just over seven minutes to play when the Huskers picked it up on the defensive end. The Huskers got stops on eight consecutive possessions. Nebraska used a 12-0 run to build the lead up to 14 with 1:30 to play and cruised to a nine-point win.
“We're getting better,” Taylor said. “This year, we've been putting halves together, but not a full game. Today, they made their runs, but we stayed strong. We never lost the lead, so it's just a sign of growth. Hopefully, we can build on that.”
The Eagles were without injured starting guard Jordan Chatman because of a shoulder injury and they lost Deontae Hakwins, their leading rebounder and third-leading scorer after just 11 minutes because of a leg injury. However, the Huskers were also without sophomore forward Isaiah Roby, whose status for Sunday is uncertain.
Wednesday’s win — Nebraska’s first over a high-major opponent — was important for the Huskers as they head into a stretch that includes four ranked opponents — Michigan State, Minnesota, Creighton and Kansas.
“Who wouldn't want to play against four of the best programs in the country?” Taylor said. “It's going to be hard, but it's an opportunity to show the world what Nebraska basketball is and to get better. I'm excited, and I know our guys are excited and we hope for the best."
Sunday’s game is set to tip off at 3:30 p.m. on FS1.
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.