Newcomers scored 59 of Nebraska’s 80 points on Tuesday night as the Huskers took down Northwood 80-62 in an exhibition game at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
James Palmer Jr. wrapped up an impressive preseason with a game-high 27 points while fellow transfer Isaac Copeland and freshman Thomas Allen both cracked double digits as well. Nebraska out-scored Northwood 45-29 in the second half to turn a one-possession game into a near-20-point victory.
The Huskers played short-handed as junior point guard Glynn Watson Jr., senior guard Anton Gill and sophomore forward Isaiah Roby all sat out with minor injuries.
Nebraska raced out to a 10-2 start behind Allen who started in place of Watson and nailed his first two 3-point attempts. Northwood hit a 3 of its own to pull within five, but Copeland responded immediately with a bucket inside. The Huskers started 5-of-6 from the field with four different players converting.
From that point on, however, the Huskers shot 7-of-23 from the field over the final 16:30 of the first half, falling into the kind of offensive rut that was far too common last season. Nebraska finished with 14 assists to 15 turnovers for the game and shot 41.4 percent from the field in the first half without their experienced floor general running the offense.
“I thought we really missed some plays where we just threw it to the wrong guy or the wrong way, and we’ve known that,” Miles said. “Evan [Taylor] kind of tweaked an ankle and blew out his shoe the last eight or nine minutes in the game so we held on to him too.”
Northwood used a 15-5 run to pull ahead 22-17 and held the lead for 9 minutes until Palmer put the Huskers up 29-27 with a three-point play. Nebraska pulled ahead by five with less than 40 seconds to go, but Northwood’s Alec Marty banked in a 3-pointer with 9 seconds left and Nebraska took a 35-33 lead into the locker room.
The Wolves shot 6-of-13 from 3 in the first half compared to 2-of-10 for Nebraska, but three of the makes for Northwood banked in off the glass.
Northwood tied it up on their first possession of the second half, but Nebraska got out in transition to get the offense going again, scoring six straight points on the break to draw a Northwood timeout. Nebraska continued to stretch out the lead the rest of the half as the Wolves shot 2-of-13 from deep and 10-of-41 from the field overall in the second half.
Northwood dominated the glass, out-rebounding Nebraska 24-9 on the offensive glass and outscoring the Huskers 31-4 in second chance points.
“Coach [Jeff] Rekeweg had his guys really hustling,” Miles said. “[Trey] McBride and [Brad] Schaub were really quick to the ball. We kept saying 15’s outworking us, 2’s outworking us.’ That’s something that we can’t allow. The first half I thought that they just worked harder on offense than we did on defense, and you can’t play that way.”
Palmer’s 27 points came on 9-of-14 from the field, 2-of-4 from deep and 7-of-8 from the foul line and he dished out four assists as well, tying Allen for the game-high.
“I think it was just in the flow of the game,” Palmer said about his offense. “I think we needed more of a spark and that’s what I tried to do.”
Allen was efficient as well, shooting 5-of-7 from the field, 2-of-4 from downtown and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line for 18 points, but he turned the ball over three times to go with four assists. With Watson out and Taylor only playing 26 minutes, Allen had to shoulder the load of running the offense for much of the night.
“I thought it was good for Thomas,” Miles said. “Thomas is a good scoring guard. He's a smaller guard, he’s not really a true point but he’s trying; he’s trying. What he does is score, and you can see he could do that tonight.”
Copeland added 12 points but missed all four of his 3-point attempts in his first official game action both against an outside opponent and in front of the fans.
“It was real cool,” Copeland said. “I spent most of last year on the bench in these situations but now I’m coming out and playing a full game. It was great.”
Rekeweg, a former Nebraska captain, said he was grateful for the experience of bringing his team back to where he played his college ball.
“To get back to these fans and the people here is awesome,” Rekeweg said. “Definitely worth the trip. We won’t play against guys that size in our league. Just a great experience for our players, an opportunity to mature some more and learn a lot and play in front of the nicest facility in the country, I believe, and the best fans in the country.”
Tuesday’s result closes out the preseason for the Huskers as they are set to tipoff the regular season on Saturday against an Eastern Illinois squad that beat Illinois in a charity exhibition game.
“I think we are [ready for the season opener],” Copeland said. “We just have to figure out how to play above the level of our competition. I think tonight showed us that we have to come out ready to play every night like it’s the top one or two teams in the country that we’re going to see later on in Orlando and in Big Ten play. We have to come out ready to play every game.”
Tip-off at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 7:30 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.