For the third straight season, Nebraska and Iowa State met behind closed doors for a preseason scrimmage. The Huskers made the trip over to Ames on Sunday to take on the Cyclones and fell 78-74.
Iowa State came out hot in the first half, shooting 50 percent from the field and a blistering 8-of-14 from 3 to beat the Huskers 45-31. The Huskers, on the other hand, only managed to knock down three of their 11 3-point attempts and shot 43 percent overall. Rebounding was an issue as well for Nebraska as the Cyclones were plus-10 on the glass (although the disparity in shooting percentages likely contributed to that).
Senior guard James Palmer Jr. and senior forward Isaac Copeland, the team’s top two returning scorers, combined for 19 of Nebraska’s 31 points in the opening 20 minutes. When Nebraska is struggling to hit shots in the flow of the offense, it;s going to be up to Palmer and Copeland to step up and create their own offense.
The Huskers bounced back in the second session, however. Nebraska stepped it up on both sides of the floor, holding the Cyclones to 37 percent from the field while shooting 49 percent on their end.
Nebraska played through its posts on the second half with Copeland and senior center Tanner Borchardt leading the way. Borchardt, the former walk-on from Gothenburg, converted all four of his shots and finished with eight points. Copeland added nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
The Huskers really shared the ball with 12 assists on their 17 buckets including four apiece by Palmer, who also snagged seven rebounds, and senior point guard Glynn Watson Jr., who also matched Copeland with nine points of his own.
Copeland’s strong performance backs up what Coach Tim Miles has been saying about the 6-foot-9 forward.
“I don’t think a lot of people even know Isaac Copeland was, what, a top 30 or 40 player in the country in high school?” Miles said at Big Ten Media Day. “Then he has a bad back and kind of disappears and now he’s reinventing himself. If you’re top-30, you’re going to the NBA; that’s what everybody says, right? … He’s emerging and emerging. He’s looking as good as I’ve ever seen him play. He’s so athletic and he’s shooting it very well. He made almost two 3s a game at 47 percent to end the year and he’s shooting I’d say at least that well.”
The ball movement in the second half is a great sign as well for the Huskers who only cracked 20 helpers in a game four times last season. If Watson can find that sweet spot between asserting himself as a scorer and getting everyone else involved, Nebraska’s offense will have a chance to take a step forward. The guys around him will have to knock down shots, however, which didn’t happen in the first half.
Iowa State went 13-18 last season but returns star point guard Lindell Wigginton who put up 16.7 points and shot 40.1 percent from 3 as a freshman. The Cyclones also return a pair of double-digit scorers in sophomore forward Cameron Lard and senior guard Nick Weiler-Babb and add a top-30 recruiting class headlined by 4-star wings Talent Horton-Tucker and Zion Griffin.
Senior Mariol Shayok, who led the Cyclones with 12 points in the first 20-minute session against Nebraska, is eligible this season after transferring from Virginia. The 6-foot-6 wing scored 8.9 points per game as a junior for the Cavaliers. Former Husker forward Michael Jacobson is also eligible this season for Iowa State after sitting out last season.
Nebraska fans will get a chance to see the Huskers with their own eyes for the first time this season on Wednesday at the Husker Hoops Preview at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The open practice begins at 5 p.m. and the team will hold a short scrimmage just after 6 p.m. Admission is free and the first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a Husker basketball shirt.
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.