James Palmer Jr. scored 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half as Nebraska held on to beat Clemson 68-66 at Littlejohn Coliseum on Monday night.
The Huskers (6-1) are now 5-3 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge including 5-2 under Coach Tim Miles. They avenged a loss to the Tigers from 2016, the only road game the Huskers have lost so far in the event.
Palmer shot 8-of-14 from the field, 2-of-5 from deep and 2-of-3 from the free-throw line while grabbing a career-high nine boards. Senior forward Isaac Copeland Jr. added 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting with six boards and three assists. Senior guard Glynn Watson Jr. chipped in 12 points but shot just 4-of-14 from the field and 2-of-7 from deep in 38 minutes.
The Huskers shot 7-of-22 from deep for the game but knocked down four of their eight attempts in the second half. Clemson shot 4-of-12 from 3 for the game but just 1-of-5 in the second half.
The stats across the board were more or less even as the game came down to the final minute and Nebraska made one or two more plays to pull out the victory.
Clemson went inside to big man Elijah Thomas and he scored on the first two possessions as Clemson began the game on an 8-2 run, but Nebraska countered with a 10-3 stretch to take its first lead of the game at 12-11.
During that stretch, a scramble for a loose ball and a tie-up led to double-technicals called on Thomas and Roby when it appears as if Thomas kicked Roby on the ground twice.
The #Nebrasketball game literally just started….
And this was a double tech. pic.twitter.com/hrTOLS6agQ
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) November 27, 2018
Clemson scored five straight before Nana Akenten knocked down a 3-pointer to pull the Huskers within one. After trading scores, Clyde Trapp knocked down his second 3-pointer off Clemson’s bench to put the Tigers up 21-17. Roby answered with a triple of his own in transition, but the double-technical call loomed large when he picked up his second foul with 9:05 to play in the half and took a seat.
Shelton Mitchell put Clemson up 23-20 with a bucket, but Nebraska ripped off a 9-2 run including six points from Copeland and a 3-pointer by Watson to pull ahead 29-25.
Then Nebraska’s offense fell into another one of the scoring droughts that continue to plague this program. Over the final 5:15 of the half, the Huskers scored just two points on a pair of bonus free throws by Palmer. Nebraska missed all four of its field goals including three from beyond the arc and turned the ball over once during that stretch.
Instead of pulling away, Nebraska let the Tigers back into the game and found itself in a 31-all tie at halftime.
Copeland led all scorers with 10 points on 3-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 from the foul line in the first half. The Huskers shot just 3-of-14 from deep but 8-of-13 inside the arc in the first 20 minutes.
Nebraska held Clemson’s leading scorer, Marquise Reed, to four points on 1-of-5 shooting but the rest of the Tigers shot 12-of-22 from the field.
The offensive woes continued to start the second half as Nebraska got a shot clock violation on the first possession. Thomas scored inside again on the other end to give the Tigers the lead again at 33-31, but Copeland answered with a dunk and Roby scored inside to put the Huskers ahead.
After going back and forth a few times, the Huskers pulled ahead with five straight including a 3-pointer by Palmer. Nebraska’s lead see-sawed between five and one over the next several minutes. Toby picked up his fourth foul at the 11:39 mark and took a seat.
Senior center Tanner Borchardt gave the Huskers a boost with Roby out, however. The former walk-on chipped in three points and two offensive boards in the span of 90 seconds. After Clemson and pulled within one, Nebraska scored six straight with back-to-back buckets by Palmer and a dunk by Copeland with 5:32 to play.
The teams traded buckets over the next few minutes including a 3-pointer by Allen that pushed the lead to eight with 2:29 remaining. A block by Copeland leading to a breakaway dunk by Palmer gave the Huskers a 66-59 lead but five straight by the Tigers cut it to two with 57 seconds to play. A missed 3 by Palmer opened the door for the Tigers but Reed was whistled for a travel trying to get to the rim with 9.4 on the clock.
Nebraska got the ball in-bounded to Watson who was fouled and the senior sank both shots to pus the lead to four. Clemson got a bucket by Aamir Simms inside with one second remaining but Nebraska got the ball in cleanly and time expired, sealing the victory for the Huskers.
Defensively, the Huskers held Clemson’s top two scorers in Reed and Mitchell just under their season averages on a combined 42 percent shooting but Thomas finished with a season-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
Roby was limited to 22 minutes and seven points because of the foul trouble but Nebraska got eight points off its bench from Borchardt and Akenten after getting just three total in a loss to Texas Tech on Tuesday.
The Huskers will get a few days off before diving into their early-season conference games as Illinois will travel to Lincoln on Sunday for a 4 p.m. tipoff. After that, the Huskers will head to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota on Wednesday before diving back into nonconference play.
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.