James Palmer Jr. knocked a 3-pointer from the top of the key on the first possession of the game and the Huskers never looked back in a wire-to-wire domination of Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday night.
The Huskers destroyed the Delta Devils 106-37 to open the season 1-0 at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The 69-point margin of victory is the second-largest in program history and the 106 points is a new pinnacle Bank Arena record as well as Nebraska’s highest total since scoring 107 against North Carolina A&T in 2006.
After shooting 13-of-26 combined in its closed scrimmage against Iowa State and its exhibition against Wayne State, the Huskers shot 15-of-37 (40.5 percent) from deep against the Delta Devils. Nebraska made more shots from deep than Mississippi Valley State did total field goals as the Huskers held the Delta Devils to 13-of-68 shooting (19.1 percent).
“We are day by day,” Coach Tim Miles said about his team’s shooting. “I like the way we shoot it. I have seen us do it in practice, I know what our numbers are in practice. I think it is going to be one of those things where we are going to have some tough nights, but, we are going to have some good nights.”
The Huskers dished out 23 assists on their 38 field goals and only turned the ball over 11 times. The Delta Devils, on the other hand, only mustered three assists and turned the ball over 19 times.
Glynn Watson Jr. led all scorers with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting including 5-of-7 from deep. The senior point guard shot 29.1 percent from 3 last season and and had just one game with more than two made triples.
“I’m just doing whatever the team needs from me,” Watson said. “I’m going to be aggressive; Coach Miles wants me to be aggressive so that’s just on thing I’m going to do: be aggressive more and try to get my teammates open and make open shots.”
Palmer finished with 17 points, five assists and three blocks. He missed his last four attempts from deep but shot 8-of-11 from the foul line. Senior forward Isaac Copeland Jr. chipped in 10 points.
After playing just 21 minutes and scoring just seven points total as a freshman, Nana Akenten came off the bench to pour in 18 points in 13 minutes, knocking down five of his 11 3-point attempts.
“It’s always fun,” Akenten said. “First off, all glory goes to God. But my teammates, they just kept encouraging me, my coaches as well. I was just out there having fun … I had a lot of open shots. I missed a few of those but once again, the team just kept encouraging me and I just had to keep getting them up.”
All 12 healthy and eligible Huskers got in the game and 11 of the 12 scored with junior walk-on Johnny Trueblood coming up empty but still dishing out three assists in six minutes.
Freshman center Brady Heiman posted a game-high 13 rebounds to go with nine points and a block in 21 minutes in his Nebraska debut.
The Huskers put on a defensive clinic in the first half, holding the Delta Devils to five points through the first 10 minutes. Mississippi State didn’t pick it up much after that either, finishing the half with 13 points on 3-of-32 shooting. Palmer outscored the Delta Devils by himself with 15 first-half points.
The Huskers opened the second half with an 21-2 run and cruised the rest of the way. The Delta Devils didn’t connect on their first triple until the 3:11 mark of the second half and finished 1-of-15 from deep.
Akenten hit four of his five 3-pointers in the second half as the reserves got extended run.
“It’s great,” Palmer said. “He’s been working all summer on his overall game and not just his shot and tonight was his night.”
In total, the bench produced 48 points led by Akenten’s 18 and nine apiece from Heiman and sophomore guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson.
“I thought that Brady Heiman did a very nice job and Nana Akenten, too,” Miles said. “I think people can see what we saw in him. He’s never really had a chance to show out so it was good for him to get some reps up and down the court. You can see why we like him.”
The Huskers will return to Pinnacle Bank Arena for a Sunday afternoon meeting with Southeastern Louisiana. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.
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.