Nebraska turned back the Pirates after a second half run and righted the ship to turn a two-point game into blowout as the Huskers improved to 3-0 with an 80-57 home win over Seton Hall (1-1) in the Gavitt Tipoff Games on Wednesday night.
The win was Coach Tim Miles’ 100th at Nebraska.
Nebraska put forth another dominant defensive effort in front of a crowd of 15,713 at Pinnacle Bank Arena, holding the Pirates to 35.6 percent from the floor including 2-of-16 from 3. The Huskers weren’t great on offense, shooting just 41.3 percent overall, but they did hit six more 3s and seven more free throws than did the Pirates.
Senior guard James Palmer Jr. shook off a rough first 15 minutes to finish with 29 points on 7-of-20 from the field and 13-of-18 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed six boards and played 39 minutes.
Senior forward Isaac Copeland Jr. recorded his fifth career double-double with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Senior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. had 14 points and eight assists.
Seton Hall jumped out to a 7-5 lead early but a 7-0 run put the Huskers in control and Nebraska’s defense took over from there, holding the Pirates to a 1-for-9 shooting stretch that allowed the Huskers to extend its lead to 17-10.
Watson scored his fourth bucket of the game to give himself 10 points and to put the Huskers up 20-12, but the senior cooled off and the Pirates scored six straight to pull within two.
After missing his first eight field goal attempts, including four 3s, Palmer finally got himself going with a pair of free throws — the first of which barely rattled in — and started an 11-4 run that gave the Huskers their biggest lead of the half at 31-22. Palmer scored nine of the 11, hitting all three of his shots during that stretch including a 3-pointer.
“I was just happy I finally made a shot,” Palmer said about the 3.
The Huskers cooled off once again after that burst from Palmer, however, missing their last five shots. Seton Hall managed to narrow the gap to six at the half as the Huskers took a 33-27 lead into the locker room.
Foul trouble played a big part in the first half as Roby was limited to six minutes with two early fouls and his back-up, Tanner Borchardt, also picked up two fouls in six minutes. Watson picked up his second late in the first half as well.
The Huskers scored the first two buckets of the second half to push the lead into double figures for the first time, but an 8-2 run capped by Seton Hall’s first 3-pointer of the game cut it to four.
The foul trouble continued into the second half as Roby picked up his third less than minutes minutes into the half, then Borchardt picked up his third 10 seconds after checking in for Roby.
The Huskers kept the Pirates at bay until Roby got called for a moving screen, giving the junior his fourth foul and wiping away a 3-pointer by Palmer. The officials hit Nebraska with a technical and Powell hit both free throws, then after a lengthy review to correct a clock issue, Seton Hall scored on the ensuing possession to cap a seven-point swing that cut Nebraska’s lead to 44-42 with 13:32 to play.
With the arena on its feet after reigning boos down on the officiating crew, Palmer went down the floor and hit a 3 — one that counted — and sparked a 36-15 run to end the game and turn a rock fight into a blowout.
“I thought they were good all night, but certainly after that 36-15 run, I thought there was this long pause and sometimes you worry,” Miles said. “They’re at the monitor trying to figure things out, but I thought our kids really came back and played rock solid. James had a big shot that helped … What was happening was you saw Palmer hit big shots and make big plays. Copeland made big shots. I think that Glynn made a big three. Thomas [Allen Jr.] made a big three. Nana [Akenten] made a great pull-up. They were really important plays, all of them. Then you can see Isaiah Roby had the best 90 seconds of the night. That’s about all he had. People could see why we want him in there.”
Roby checked in at the seven-minute mark and played the rest of the game without committing a foul, putting an exclamation point on the win with an alley-oop off a lob from Watson.
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Roby added a late 3 off another feed from Watson to close out the scoring, giving the junior seven points, four rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal in 17 minutes of action.
Palmer drew 11 fouls on the night. Six of them came after Roby’s fourth foul and all six were shooting fouls, leading to 12 of his 18 free-throw attempts.
“I just wanted to stay aggressive,” Palmer said. “My jump shot wasn’t falling so I just decided to drive.”
With the team’s top two options at the five in foul trouble for much of the game, freshman Brady Heiman stepped in and made a handful of hustle plays. He did not attempt a shot, but he still grabbed two offensive rebounds, recorded two steals and blocked one shot in 12 minutes when the team needed him.
“Brady was great,” Copeland said. “I think we’ve been seeing a little taste of it in the first two games against other opponents, but I think tonight he really stepped up, used his length and helped us out a lot.”
Seton Hall star Myles Powell, fresh off a 30-point outburst in the Pirates’ season-opener, put up 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the first half to lead all scorers at the break. Nebraska locked him up in the second half, however, holding him to 2-of-11 shooting for nine points.
“It takes a village because you’ve got everybody on him,” Miles said. “First of all, Glynn was awesome. Glynn really did a nice job on him. Amir Harris made an appearance and did a nice job on him too. But you’ve still got to help and they were attacking Tanner, they were attacking Brady, but they did a better job as the game went on because we couldn’t keep Isaiah in the game. Just all of that stuff, I think Cope got switched on him too. Everybody did it but he got our full attention. He was going to get our full attention and that was really important for us to get him under control.”
The Huskers will hit the road on Monday, heading down to the Sprint Center in Kansas City to take on Missouri State in the Hall of Fame Classic. USC and Texas Tech will face off on the other side of the bracket. Tipoff for the Huskers and Bears is set for 6 p.m. on ESPNU.