This was written by halftime. Not during halftime. By halftime. Tuesday’s season-opener for the Huskers was that lopsided. (Okay, maybe not by halftime but only because I’m a slacker. This one was decided by halftime, though.) The 25th-ranked Huskers (1-0) topped Mississippi Valley State (0-1) 106-37 in what was the second-largest margin of victory in school history.
Let’s get straight to the takeaways.
Not a ton to take away
The Delta Devils were bad. Really bad. Most knew that heading into Tuesday night’s opener, the Devils had lost to schools named Tougaloo College and Delta State in exhibitions over the last two weeks. So… there’s that. But then the game started and it was evident why. The shot selection wasn’t so much trying to generate good looks but more just finding a sliver of space where you could throw the ball at the basket and hope for something good.
Mississippi Valley State shot 9.4 percent in the first half. That’s 3-of-31 for those at home. Nebraska had as many blocked shots as the Devils had made shots. They ended things shooting 19.1 percent. Nebraska played sound defensively but it’s hard to give the Huskers all the credit for the Devils’ shooting.
This was a ranked program playing a smaller, less-talented team. It is what it is.
Defensively, the visitors came out in a 1-3-1 zone to open things, basically conceding the only way they were going to stand a chance was by baiting a poor 3-point shooting team into clanking a bunch of triples. Nebraska didn’t, the Huskers shot 15-of-37 from beyond the arc. They were able to generate some open looks out of drive-and-kick situations, but a good deal of Nebraska’s triples came off pull-ups.
The other team wasn’t scoring, so there was no immediacy for Nebraska to run sets. Glynn Watson Jr. let a few fly, guard Thomas Allen let a few fly, guard James Palmer Jr. let a ton fly. Why not? Plenty of friendly rims in Pinnacle Bank Arena Tuesday night.
We’ll see if that three-point shooting can continue once a more competent defense comes to town.
Glynn Watson Jr. is back, ladies and gentlemen.
With just over 16 minutes to go in the second half, the senior guard curled off an Isaiah Roby screen near the First National Bank logo on the left side of the floor. He drove the paint, spun left and away from a defender then dropped a pass to Isaac Copeland cutting baseline for a weakside dunk.
Watson looked in complete control.
During the offseason, head coach Tim Miles talked about the role new assistant Armon Gates played in helping Watson correct last year’s struggles. As a junior, Watson shot a career-low 34.7 percent from the field and 29.1 percent from 3-point range. His offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) and PER both dipped to career-lows as well.
More than anything, Gates worked to inject some confidence back into the starting point guard. Watson came out the gates firing Tuesday night and racked up 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. He added three boards, three assists and two steals against no turnovers.
If you read Takeaway No. 1 (hopefully you did, who starts in the middle of a story), you would know that Mississippi Valley State is not going to be beating Duke anytime soon, so you don’t want to get too caught up in Watson’s stat line. But here’s something: Watson had made five 3s in a game once in his career heading into Tuesday night (Jan. 5, 2017, against Iowa he hit 7-of-8).
He had five in 19 minutes. He was unafraid to let it fly. The highlight came on a first-half stepback into a 3-ball that looked straight out of James Harden’s bag of tricks (or Wesley Johnson’s nightmares).
Rough night for Roby
It’s probably nothing, or it might be something; forward Isaiah Roby was limited to 16 minutes Tuesday night because he picked up three fouls. Roby got caught with his hand in the cookie jar a couple times and that will be something he’ll need to fix moving forward.
The foul trouble kept him from really getting any kind of rhythm offensively. There were a few nice defensive plays but Roby finished with six points on two shots, five rebounds, three assists and two turnovers.
It’s a team Roby should have been able to feast on. The Delta Devils had no one on the floor that could match Roby’s combination of size, athleticism and handle. His only two buckets came by way of a dunk and a layup. Both were plays where he caught a pass near the hoop.
The junior forward isn’t 100 percent healthy, dealing with a nagging heel issue from the offseason, so Miles probably didn’t want to push him too much, but Roby having such a minimal impact was at least surprising.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.