Friday’s opponent for the Huskers, Delaware Sate, is currently 349th in Ken Pomeroy’s team rankings.
(There are only 351 teams in Division I.)
There isn’t a lot we can learn from Nebraska playing an opponent like that. That being said, in addition to the win (85-68), there were a few things I had hoped Nebraska might get out of that game and for the most part, Nebraska checked each of those things off the list.
Get freshman point guard Thomas Allen plenty of minutes.
Heading into Friday, Allen, the true freshman out of prep powerhouse Brewster Academy, had played double-digit minutes in just seven out of his 12 games. His career-high was 17 minutes in the second game of the season.
However, because of a combination of Glynn Watson Jr.’s struggles (two points, three assists and three turnovers in 15 minutes), a double-digit advantage for most of the game and Allen’s effectiveness, he played 26 minutes and produced career highs in points with 14 (6-of-11 from the field), assists with four and steals with two.
Allen produced the highlight of the first half as well in the final second.
Halftime: Nebraska 42, Delaware St 26. Thomas Allen drain hits this long 3 at the buzzer. Freshman has 10 points off the bench pic.twitter.com/XV964Nh0Ap
— Kevin Sjuts (@kevinsjuts) December 23, 2017
“Thomas Allen, I thought was good,” Coach Tim Miles said. “Some nights when guys just aren’t quite there, as a coach, I feel like it is necessary to send a message. Tom has to prove to me that he can play. If somebody is struggling, or whatever, I’m going to run him out there.”
It is Allen’s second double-digit outing in three games after he put up 13 against Kansas last Saturday. With conference play approaching, it’s a good time for Allen to be finding his stride.
Find a way for sophomore center Jordy Tshimanga to be effective.
Tshimanga’s stat-line isn’t going to blow anybody away: six points on 2-of-3 from the field and 2-of-4 from the foul line, six rebounds, one assists and one turnover in 24 minutes.
However, in comparison to the rest of his season, it was certainly a step forward. The six points ties his season-high (you read that right). I wrote on Thursday about how much Tshimanga had been struggling and how Nebraska needed to go about getting him back on track.
Well, it looks like Miles was thinking along the same lines that I was. Nebraska made the game much simpler for Tshimanga. They didn’t ask him to post up and they didn’t run the offense through him. All of his offensive looks were right at the basket, and he converted two and drew fouls on two others.
On top of that, Tshimanga showed a ton of hustle, rebounding well and keeping a few plays alive. Nebraska was plus-11 with him on the floor compared to plus-3 against UTSA and minus-9 against Kansas.
“I think he’s carrying a burden as to why he looks slow,” Miles said. “He feels and makes better plays and gets a blocked shot here or an easier layup there. If he would just exhale on the free-throw line maybe, just relax a little bit, but play harder. We’re sticking with him and I believe in Jordy and I think he is going to come through this. We are going to need him in conference play.”
The next step for Tshimanga is to stack a couple of positive performances together, and the way Nebraska used him on Friday is the best way to make that happen.
Build a big enough lead for freshman wing Thorir Thorbjarnarson so get some playing time in front of his visiting family.
Mission accomplished. Nebraska held a 20-point lead for much of the game, and although Delaware State pulled within 11 midway through the second half, Nebraska stretched it back out and Miles sent the Icelandic native onto the floor for the final four minutes.
With eight members of his family in the stands, Thorbjarnarson caught the ball near the top of the key and let it fly, splashing the first 3-pointer of his career. On the following possessions, Nebraska found Thorbjarnarson again, this time in the corner in front of Nebraska’s bench, and he buried it again.
“That was important to me,” Miles said. “Eight of his family members came here from Iceland. So to be able to get him in the game and then he makes those two 3s is pretty good stuff. That second was deep, I thought I was going to be in the way. It was a neat night that way.”
The 6-foot-5 freshman missed his third attempt, but on the next trip down the floor, he set up his fellow freshman Nana Akenten for a 3-pointer of his own, and Akenten knocked it down to cap the scoring.
In fact, the whole scout team got to close out the game with walk-ons Malcolm Laws, Johnny Trueblood and Tanner Borchardt rounding out the lineup, and it proved to be Borchardt’s last game as a walk-on as well.
All in all, while the game as a whole could have gone a bit more smoothly, Nebraska got what it needed to out of this game. Now the Huskers will get a chance to relax over the holiday break before returning for the final game of the nonconference schedule next Friday.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.