Following a 75-60 Nebraska (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten) win over Illinois (2-6, 0-1 Big Ten) in the conference opener, both head coaches and several players met with the media to rehash the game.
Here’s what each had to say.
Head coach Tim Miles
On how he thought the Huskers handled Illinois’ defense:
“Illinois does a terrific job defensively. In terms of creating turnovers, they are so good with the ball, they force you to play strong all night. If there is one thing I think we didn’t do well [it] was handle the ball well. I thought we had far too many turnovers.
“It was interesting after the game, James [Palmer Jr.] was going to be interviewed on TV, and I said, ‘You did a great job tonight, James,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, too many turnovers, man, I’ve got to clean that up.’ That’s what you want to hear. And he wouldn’t have to say that. He could say, ‘Remember I went to the foul line 14 times,’ or whatever, but it is always good when you hear it.”
On the importance of getting out to a fast start and playing with a lead:
“It was really important. With these guys, to get on top of them and then keep them there at an arm’s length, that has been hard for a lot of teams to do. Gonzaga hasn’t done it. Notre Dame didn’t do it. We were able to. I think getting to the foul line for us was important. Then, the fact that we made some threes tonight helped, too. If we can do both of those, then you’re a tough out.”
On whether he was worried about the shooting or happy to get to the free throw line:
“You just always worry about being too dependent on free throws because quite frankly, you’re not in control. You can draw up a 3-point field goal, you can throw it inside, but you don’t know if you’re going to get fouled or not. That’s not your decision, it’s the other guy’s. So, that’s why you don’t want to depend on it. We just try to depend on defense. Just get stops and hopefully our defense will create some offense and tonight it did just enough. I don’t think we made enough scoring plays in transition. I think that’s something we really have to clean up.”
Senior guard James Palmer Jr.
On attacking the rim against an aggressive defense:
“As a team, we definitely wanted to get to the free throw line. We know they extend their defense and pressure, so you just want to get to the basket.”
Senior forward Isaac Copeland
On the importance of playing with a lead:
“Coach always emphasizes playing with a lead. I think this four-game stretch we have had, when you play with a lead through all those games, they are all tough, good teams. So that’s what we wanted to do today.”
On how they were able to get off to a good start:
“It’s kind of a blur right now, but I think we just played good defense. I mean 11 to 2 (in the first two minutes). We were able to get the ball in the basket ourselves, so that’s always a good recipe for success.”
On getting out in transition and pushing the pace:
“I think that’s when we’re at our best. James, he’s pretty much unstoppable in transition. You’ve got to foul him or he’s going to score. I think any time we can rebound and push it with us four, we’re pretty hard to stop.”
Illinois head Coach Brad Underwood
“Give Nebraska credit. That's a veteran basketball team that jumped on us early. It was uphill from the get-go. You spend a couple of days preparing, and most of our talk was about not fouling. With James Palmer, we wanted him to shoot the ball. The one thing he does is he puts a lot of fouls on people. We've got to grow up in that area and become more disciplined.
“Our turnovers were an issue as well. With three starting point guards, you would hope we wouldn't have as many turnovers as we did. That's something we gotta grow into. But Nebraska is top five in almost every defensive category. They make life very difficult. They challenged [junior guard] Aaron [Jordan] on everything. [Freshman guard] Ayo [Dosunmu] went 3-of-12. It was a tough night all-around.”
On playing on the road in the first Big Ten game of the year:
“No disrespect to Notre Dame, but it's a little different when you play your first Big Ten game. Everybody knows one another a little better. This placed was a little more juiced and had a little more atmosphere than South Bend. I don't mean any disrespect in any way. I was a little curious to see how we were going to act on life on the road in the Big Ten. You have to have a toughness and an edge. You got a team with fifth-year senior and four-year starters, they had that poise, and we did not. That's something that we saw today.”