With the holidays approaching, the Huskers were in a giving mood on Friday night as Nebraska dished out a season-high 24 assists (the most for the Huskers under Coach Tim Miles) on 31 field goals in an 85-68 win against Delaware State at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Huskers (9-5) shot 51.7 percent from the field and 48.1 percent from 3, knocking down 13 triples, also the highest total for the Huskers under Miles.
“These Christmas [games] are really difficult and we’ve been through it and have one more to go,” Miles said. “We’ll be locked in and we’ll find guys that can do it and tonight we did. We had gotten just enough guys that were locked in that. It’s hard but we have more depth.”
James Palmer Jr. led the way with 18 points in 24 minutes. Freshman guard Thomas Allen finished with career-highs in points with 14 and assists with four, while senior guard Anton Gill chipped in 14 of his own (4-of-6 from 3) and a career-high six assists. Junior forward Isaac Copeland added 11 points.
“They really shot the ball, moved the ball well, and they did a great job executing their game plan and what they wanted to do,” Delaware State Coach Keith Walker said. “We were always on the offensive trying to counter and we really didn’t get comfortable until the second half. By that time, the deficit was a bit too much to overcome. I think at one point they had us down 22, but when we cut the lead to half of that, then they go on another short shooting spree. I’m impressed with the way Nebraska played, and I think they’re going to be OK.”
The Huskers put on an offensive clinic for much the first half, shooting 6-of-10 from deep and dishing out 13 assists on 15 field goals as Delaware State threw a 2-3 zone defense at them to start the game. Nebraska blew the game open with a 14-0 run to take a 20-6 lead.
The Huskers extended the run to 22-3 to take a 28-9 lead midway through the first half. Delaware State put together a 10-2 run as the Huskers slowed down, but Nebraska responded with a pair of 3-pointers then a steal and breakaway layup by Allen.
Delaware State started chipping away at the lead again, getting it down to 13, but Allen capped a 10-point first half with a buzzer-beater from the end of the scorer’s table to send Nebraska into the locker room with a 42-26 lead.
"I knew it was going in,” Allen said about the shot. “I just knew it."
Junior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. went down with an apparent foot or ankle injury as his shoe popped off in a scrum. He hopped to the bench on one foot, then went back to the locker room under his own power. However, he later returned and checked back into the game with just over four minutes to play in the half.
Delaware State opened the half on fire, shooting 10-of-14 from the field to pull within 11 thanks to an 11-1 run. The Huskers went 5:37 without a bucket before Gill checked back in and drilled a 3-pointer that put the Huskers back up by 15 with just under nine minutes to play.
The Huskers put together a 12-2 run to build the lead back up to 21 and cruised to the finish line from there.
Freshman wing Thorir Thorbjarnarson checked in and knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers — the first of his career — in the closing moments. Making the moment even sweeter was who happened to be sitting in the stands.
“That was important to me,” Miles said. “Eight of his family members came here from Iceland. So to be able to get him in the game and then he makes those two 3s is pretty good stuff.”
Fellow freshman wing Nana Akenten knocked down a triple as well, his second of the season, to close out the scoring for the Huskers.
The Huskers will be off until next Friday when they return to Pinnacle Bank Arena to close out the nonconference season against Stetson. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.