Fred Hoiberg had several things on his check list heading into Nebraska’s game against Doane on Thursday night, and he got the chance to cross off all of them in a 110-64 win over the Tigers at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Huskers shared the ball well and knocked down shots, Indianapolis transfer Trevor Lakes and freshman center Eduardo Andre made their debuts, Hoiberg went deep into his bench and, most importantly, Nebraska got a chance to break up what would have been a 12-day layoff between games.
“We needed it, we needed it in a big way,” Hoiberg said. “Adding two new guys to the mix, to be able to play a game where hopefully they can get some confidence, it’s an important first step. If you go out and get drubbed the first time out, it’s going to hurt confidence and who knows how long it lasts?
“To be able to have a game like this to where a lot of guys contributed, played a lot of minutes… I know in talking to other coaches, a lot of teams have played games where they’re supposed to win and win big to get some of your bench guys quality minutes. In today’s age, with what you’re dealing with, you just don’t know when something would happen to get one of your guys who hasn’t played a lot, all of a sudden they’re in the rotation. It was an important game for a lot of reasons.”
Nebraska finished with 25 assists and just eight turnovers, breaking a three-game trend of escalating turnover totals that culminated with 25 give-aways in the loss to Creighton. Making simple plays was one of Hoiberg’s biggest emphases heading into the game.
“That was my biggest fear going into the season was taking care of the basketball … We watched every turnover, as painful as that was to watch the 76 turnovers, we just sat and watched them as a team, Hoiberg said. “Driving into a crowd, traveling, stepping on the sideline. We stress and work on simple-play drills every day — when you draw two, you’ve done your job, now make the right play and play the numbers game on the back side. It was good to see us make those plays after struggling with it for three straight games.”
The guy who set the tone for the ball movement was Dalano Banton, the 6-foot-9 point guard from Canada who recorded the second triple-double in program history. He finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting (1-of-2 from deep) and 2-of-4 from the foul line, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, three blocks, one steal and just two turnovers in 21 minutes.
Teddy Allen led all scorers with 16 points in 18 minutes, shooting 7-of-14 from the field and grabbing five rebounds. Sophomore center Yvan Ouedraogo recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points (3-of-5 from the field, 7-of-10 from the line) and 13 rebounds. Senior Kobe Webster chipped in 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting (2-of-3 from deep).
Lakes, who received a waiver to play this season earlier in the day, made his Nebraska debut and shot 4-of-5 from the 3-point line en route too 12 points and six rebounds. He also chipped in a pair of assists in 26 minutes, and his only miss from the arc got blocked.
“It’s awesome getting to play with these guys,” Lakes said. “I’ve been practicing with them since June. It’s really fun getting to play with them. We’ve got a lot of good guys and we have a talented group.”
Andre missed the first six games of the season because of COVID-19 protocol and returned to practice on Tuesday. He didn’t show much rust in his debut, putting up nine points on 4-of-4 from the field and 1-of-2 from the foul line, four rebounds, two blocks and an assist in 14 minutes.
“He’s a confident kid,” Hoiberg said about Andre. “He’s been playing basketball for about four years, and to see some of the moves he made on the block, I didn’t see any jitters at a all out there. I thought he made a couple really nice plays off the dribble. He gave Yvan a nice post feed there towards the end. The kid’s got a lot of upside. He’s a guy that’s going to keep getting better as he gets stronger and grows into his body. You just can’t teach his size, almost 7 feet tall with a 7-5 wingspan. It was great to see him block a couple shots in there; we missed that the last couple of years. He’s going to be a big piece of our future.”
The Huskers shot 55.4% from the field, 36.4% from 3 and 64% from the charity stripe.
Doane fired up 46 3-pointers, making 13 of them. Lincoln Pius X graduate Joe Burt and Gering product Trey Winkler led the Tigers with 11 points apiece while Ponca alumnus Max Masin posted team-highs in rebounds (11) and assists (four) while chipping in seven points.
Nebraska got off to a cold start from the perimeter, missing its first five 3-point attempts and blowing a couple of bunnies as well. The Huskers took a 9-4 lead into the first media timeout and then Hoiberg made a lineup change, sending four reserves out there along with Banton.
One of those reserves was Lakes, and the Indianapolis transfer buried a corner 3 on a skip pass from Banton on his first possession, taking the lid off the rim.
“Trevor, man, we’ve seen it since June,” Banton said. “Trevor’s out there, he’s knocking down shots, he’s working on his game every day and it’s a blessing to have him out there. To have that immediate eligibility for him is great. He’s a threat on the court at all times and if you feed him and he’s open, he’s going to knock it down … You guys saw it tonight what we’ve been seeing since June. It’s great to have him out there.”
The Huskers made their next three 3-point attempt as well — two more by Lakes and one by Webster — but the defensive and rebounding effort slipped as Doane got going from the perimeter as well. A 3 by Winkler pulled Doane within four at 23-19.
Then the Huskers took over. A 12-0 run including a dunk and a layup by freshman center Eduardo Andre in his debut gave the Huskers a 35-19 lead. After a couple of Doane buckets, Nebraska hit the Tigers with a 15-0 run to push the lead to 30.
Masin ended the run with a layup, but freshman Elijah Wood drilled a 3 at the buzzer for his first career points as a Husker. Nebraska took a 57-26 lead into halftime.
The defensive effort slipped again to start the second half with Doane shooting 6-10 from deep and outscoring the Huskers 24-18 out of the locker room, but Nebraska responded with a 10-0 run and kept building up the lead the rest of the way.
With Nebraska leading 68-42, Banton found Ouedraogo rolling to the rim for a dunk, giving Banton his 10th assist and the triple-double.
“I was here when Cam [Mack] got it last year,” Banton said. “It’s a big accomplishment. I knew throughout the game; the teammates made it known and they were out there trying to help me get it, so it’s all because of them that I did get it.”
With Nebraska leading 79-50 near the 10-minute mark, Shamiel Stevenson knocked down his first 3-pointer as a Husker after missing his first eight attempts of the season.
With just under a minute to play, Ouedraogo hit a pair of free throws to give himself the double-double, then tacked on a dunk about 20 seconds later to put an exclamation point on his performance.
Hoiberg only went 11 deep on his bench as walk-ons Bret Porter and Jace Piatkowski were not available.
“Bret’s dealing with a personal matter and Jace, he was not available tonight,” Hoiberg said. “I’ll leave it at that. We hope to have both of them back on the roster soon.”
Next up for the Huskers is the start of Big Ten play, and the Huskers will see one of the conference’s best right out of the gates in Wisconsin on Tuesday. Hoiberg is hoping the big win against Doane will give the team some confidence heading into the Big Ten grind.
“The very first opportunity in league play is to go against the team that won the league last year,” Hoiberg said. “It’s a huge team, it’s a physical team, they’ll post up any player one through five, they start [Micah] Potter and [Nate] Reuvers who are two of the better bigs in our league and they’re both shooting over 50% from the 3-point line. It’s going to be a really tough battle. This thing can become a grind, and I know a lot of people have talked about how this whole thing has affected guys in different ways, so I thought it was important to get our guys confident.”