Nebraska showed it wasn’t the least bit intimidated by the Mean Green on Monday night as the Huskers raced out to a 25-2 lead to open the game and held on through a rough second half to secure an 86-67 win against North Texas at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Monday night.
"I thought we were locked in,” Coach Tim Miles said. “I thought that we've learned from our previous start where we didn't share the ball and didn't guard the ball. We had two goals tonight; pass the ball, guard the ball. I thought we did that well for a long time.”
After a rough offensive game against Eastern Illinois in the season-opener, Nebraska came out of the gates firing on all cylinders on both ends of the floor. Nebraska hit seven of its first eight shots and blocked three shots by North Texas in the first six-and-a-half minutes, putting together an 18-0 run.
The lead grew to as much as 28 late in the first half before North Texas knocked down thee straight 3s to cut the deficit to 21. North Texas got it down to 20 just before half, but Glynn Watson Jr. took it the the basket and finished just before the buzzer to give Nebraska a 52-30 lead at the break.
The 52-points were the most in a first half by Nebraska since the Huskers led Southeastern Louisiana 53-16 on Nov. 22, 2015. It was the third time the Huskers have cracked 50 points in the first half under Miles.
North Texas came out in a 1-1-3 zone defense in the second half and Nebraska’s offense ground to a halt as the Huskers scored just one point in the first four minutes.
“They went into the zone, and we didn’t attack that as aggressively as we did the first half and then our defense slipped a little, our on-ball defense,” junior forward Jack McVeigh said. “Just those things didn’t let us push the lead out further.”
North Texas couldn’t take advantage of Nebraska’s cold spell, however, as the Mean Green got no closer than 17 in the second half.
The second half featured 31 fouls including 18 by North Texas as Nebraska shot 17-of-24 from the free-throw line after halftime, making up for its 8-of-32 performance from the field. In total, Nebraska shot 33-of-45 from the charity stripe (73.3 percent), a marked improvement from Nebraska’s 23-39 (59.0 percent) against Eastern Illinois.
In total, the game included 56 fouls, 63 free throws, 29 turnovers and 74 missed shots.
“I’m going to hear whistles in my sleep,” Miles cracked to open his post-game press conference.
Five Huskers finished with 10 or more points led by junior guard James Palmer Jr. with 18. Palmer knocked down two of Nebraska’s five 3-pointers and grabbed five rebounds but also accounted for five of the team’s 12 turnovers.
Watson added 15 points thanks to a 10-of-12 performance from the free-throw line after hitting just six of his 11 attempts in the opener. Senior guard Evan Taylor had 12 points, and sophomore forward Isaiah Roby added 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. McVeigh chipped in 10 points and six boards in 12 minutes.
Freshman point guard Thomas Allen hit the ground hard after a foul and landed on his tailbone late in the game. Allen went back to the locker room after shooting his free throws and Miles did not have an update immediately after the game. Fellow freshmen Nana Akenten and Thorir Thorbjarnarson made their collegiate debuts, going scoreless in a combined nine minutes of action.
In total, 14 different Huskers played and 11 scored.
Nebraska will hit the road for the annual Gavitt Games on Thursday as the Huskers head to St. John’s for a 5:30 p.m. tipoff. The game will be televised 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.