Nebraska men’s basketball closed the first half with a bang, and it powered a 78-60 win over Idaho State at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
On Friday night, the Bengals stuck with the Huskers for most of the first 20 minutes of play. Idaho State led 14-13 at the 13-minute mark before Nebraska countered with an 11-0 run, but they came back and brought the deficit to four points with 2:47 to go.
Then Nebraska (2-2) took over. The Huskers made a free throw, forced one turnover which resulted in a 3-pointer and then forced another giveaway. On their last possession of the half, guard Kobe Webster dribbled down the clock and flew by the defense into the paint.
Upon arrival, he flipped a quick pass to Derrick Walker, who forcefully dunked it to give the Huskers a double-digit lead at half.
That assist was one of Webster’s team-leading five, and Walker’s dunk counted for two of his team-leading 14 points.
Walker had nine of those points in the first half, which was especially notable given he had scored just seven total points through Nebraska’s first three games. Husker head coach Fred Hoiberg said that they made a point of getting him involved early.
“We wanted to get Derrick going a little,” he said. “… He does so many little things for this team, screening, so to get him going a little bit is big for our team because he was so good in preseason.”
Walker scored the first two baskets for Nebraska as well, but he wasn’t the only one to contribute in the win. Every player in the Huskers’ main rotation scored, and four hit double-digits. The Huskers also had a season-high 18 assists.
“When the ball sticks, I think we all kind of go our separate ways, and it makes it a lot tougher to play in a rhythm,” Wilhelm Breidenbach said. “You saw what happened when we moved it, everyone got involved, everyone was happy to get back on defense, play with some more energy.”
Breidenbach also had his best scoring game of the year, as the freshman center put up nine points.
For nearly the first eight minutes of the game, neither side led by more than one possession. Breidenbach and freshman C.J. Wilcher made back-to-back 3-pointers to change that, putting the Huskers up five. That started Nebraska’s 11-0 run, which was capped off by a second Breidenbach triple.
Yet, Idaho State didn’t go away until Nebraska’s half-ending run took place. The Bengals stayed in the game almost exclusively through 3-point shooting, as seven of their 11 first-half field goals came from beyond the arc.
Nebraska played aggressively on defense, being rewarded somewhat with 15 total forced turnovers, eight of those coming in the first 20 minutes. However, the defense had shortcomings when it came to defending the three.
Hoiberg said that other than his team’s performance stopping shots beyond the arc, he was happy with how the defense did.
“Just got to get heels outside of the three and get a high early shot challenge, run those guys off when they get going like that,” he said. “We did a lot of good things tonight, but we have to defend the 3 better.”
The second half was mostly uneventful, with a few Husker scoring runs sealing the victory. Both the Bengals and Huskers had their efficiency from the field dip from the first half, but Nebraska did just enough.
After not scoring in the opening half, Webster got on the board to start the second. Two lay-ups from the guard, including an and-one, capped an early 10-0 run for the team.
Idaho State made a final push right after with back-to-back 3-pointers, but it trailed off from there. In the six minutes after those shots, Nebraska outscored the Bengals 18-4 to lead by 26.
Regardless of the opponent, the Huskers were happy to produce their cleanest game yet.
“From start to finish, tonight definitely was our best game since we started the regular season,” Hoiberg said. “It’s important to see that when we play the right way, good things happen. We can build off of this one and get some confidence going into the next one.”