SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A week off, illness and a cold start out of the gates; none of it could put a dampener on Nebraska’s open to the 2018-19 campaign. With a 79-56 win over Oklahoma State (4-6), the Huskers moved to 9-2 on the season and picked up another marquee win away from home.
After the game, guards James Palmer Jr. and Thomas Allen Jr. and forward Isaac Copeland, as well as head coach Tim Miles, all met with the media.
Here’s what they had to say.
Head coach Tim Miles
On if this game reminded him of the Texas Tech game at all and how he thought the team responded?
“Yeah. I think you could see by our body language early in the game that our guys were… I mean, you could feel… I think the proximity of the environment made it feel like they were pressuring harder and they started switching all our stuff. Just the way it felt to me, the guys were like, ‘Eh.’ It’s like you’re trying to break a horse and they’re chomping on the bit, they’re not really taking it. I thought the last three-and-a-half minutes of the first half, we changed one of our entries into our offense and that really helped. We cut harder, moved better. And then we really played defense well down the stretch. I thought we got stronger as the game went on.”
On what the win meant for the team?
“You have to prove you can win away from home. Although this had a great environment to it, it’s still away from home and I thought our guys did a good job because they performed better as the game went on. They were able to extend the lead, they were able to extend the whole thing, and I think that means a lot. They never let Oklahoma State back into the game.”
On the defensive improvement in the second half?
“I think they only scored once on our 1-3-1. The second-half defense I thought was just really good. With Oklahoma State, the way they played so physical, you’ve got to run to the fight, and we didn’t. We kind of warmed to the fight, took a look at our blood, ‘Eh, OK, we’ll fight.’ I thought that was really good and you could see in the second half how well we played defense, and then we were able to get to the foul line early and often.”
On the personal feelings of winning at home?
“Personally, as you can tell, I’m so happy to bring the Husker team up to such a strong fan base. Our fans were awesome. The fans were just unbelievable tonight, and I’m sure there were a lot of people that aren’t Pinnacle Bank Arena people, even though there were some there. They were locals or Nebraskans or Iowans or whatever that love Nebraska. It was really a lot of fun. I think it maybe caught our guys off-guard a little bit that it was such a pro-Husker crowd. I don’t know if they knew exactly what to expect.”
On Allen’s play?
“To come in and be able to understand the defensive game plan and what’s going on, I think you can see what we saw in him in the recruiting process. Sometimes he’s kind of the fifth Beatle, and I think he did a great job tonight and made huge baskets. I took him out with 12 minutes to go in the second half, or in the game, and he’s like ‘I’m good, no, I’m good.’ I’m like, ‘No. you’re coming out before you need an IV.’ It was good.”
On if he felt the offense got the defense going?
“It could have been. I think once we felt like ‘Oh, here’s a good idea, this is working,’ and we hit a shot here, hit a shot there. You saw guys like Palmer stayed with the game plan, didn’t get frustrated, was really encouraging his teammates. Some other guys were a little bit frustrated here and there. But what a good night, because you had to grind out a win. It wasn’t the prettiest thing ever. It was a lot of fun. But the guys definitely, I think, as time went on we felt better offensively and we really took charge defensively.”
On if the team did anything differently in the second half?
“Oklahoma State did a good job on the glass and they were just getting way more shots than we were. I think we talked about it a little bit, we watched a little video at halftime too on how we have to keep them off the glass, and we did a much better job of that. There’s no magic moment for me. The thing is when we changed some entries to our offense and then we started getting a little more rhythm and movement, we played better defense.”
On the Huskers’ 3-point shooting and 3-point defense?
“I remember Tom Osborne and I met two years ago, and you always have game goals but he said ‘What’s a perfect game look like to you? For us, we had to win the 3-point battle by five percentage points and three makes, no matter what, and we did that tonight … I think it’s really important when you are able to battle with teams like this, especially take away the 3, and then we got a good rhythm — James shot it pretty well, Tom hit a couple really important ones, Cope got one too. The fact that a variety of players — we didn’t have to just rely on any one guy — helped us.”
On if it was cool for him to be back and playing in South Dakota
“It was a lot of fun. Three of my college teammates are here — they played, I watched; that was our agreement. They showed up from Bismarck, North Dakota. A lot of friends from my hometown, Dolan, were there.
“My mom, I don’t think has been to a game for a couple years and she’s 87, so I’m sure she’ll tell me how loud it was, which is a good problem to have, Ma.”
Senior guard James Palmer Jr.
On playing in Sioux Falls?
“It was an exciting crowd. It basically sounded like a home game for us. Nebraska fans really came out tonight supporting us.”
On the Huskers’ 11-2 run to close the first half?
“It was a big confidence booster. It definitely helped us leading to the second half. That was a big run for us.”
On if getting to the rim against the Cowboys was an emphasis?
“We didn’t want to settle against a team that pressures like Illinois, so we definitely wanted to attack the basket and get to the rim.”
On the play of Allen while fighting illness?
“It showed that he’s got heart and he’s about the team. He played good tonight. It might not have shown int he stat sheet but he definitely helped us out tonight.”
Senior forward Isaac Copeland
On what this win meant for the team?
“It meant a lot to us. It was bigger than basketball. Coach Miles is from here so he didn’t want to talk about it too much but we all knew in the back of his mind he didn’t want to lose at home.”
On what changed as the game went on?
“They play similar to Illinois so it just takes time, it’s going to wear on them at the end of the game so at halftime we made a few adjustments, I got a little hot at the end of the first half and the court started opening up.”
On Palmer’s performance?
“He’s really poised, didn’t get bothered, battled. He made it to the free throw line like he always does, made pretty much all of them. He was really aggressive.”
On whether the offense got the defense going?
“Yeah. We like to have it the other way around.”
On Allen’s play?
“Extremely proud of Tom. He was coming off the Creighton game [career-high 18 points] and he was getting sick and I was like, ‘Man he’s on a good roll right now, keep it going.’ He drove up here at like six o’clock in the morning or something like that, came out and played really well for us. I’m proud of him.”
On the next week off?
“We’ve got a lot to work on. Tonight was probably my worst defensive game of the year so far, so I’ve got to key in on that in practice and have a better performance [next] Saturday. Personally, that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m sure we have some things we’re going to work on as a team.”
Sophomore guard Thomas Allen Jr.
On when he started getting sick?
“Friday I was at the hospital, I got there at like 10 o’clock and left at 3 a.m.
“I had a stomach virus and migraines.”
On when he knew he was going to be able to play?
“Last night I stayed in Lincoln because I wanted to see how I’d feel. I left this morning and got here at 12, I knew I was good.”
On what the win means to the team?
“It means a lot. Miles, he wanted this game because he’s from here and things like that. The win was for him.”
On playing in Sioux Falls?
“It was home game for us, honestly. The crowd was loud. It was like a home game for us.”