In wins over Delaware State and Stetson, Nebraska junior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. accounted for three points on 1-of-6 shooting, four assists, four turnovers and six rebounds in 39 minutes. With the level of competition (and a big boost from Tanner Borchardt), the Huskers managed to win without much in the way of contributions from its starting point guard.
However, that wasn’t going to be the case with Big Ten play starting on Tuesday. The Huskers needed their point guard playing at a high level, and that’s what they got as Nebraska won at Northwestern 70-55.
Watson put up 19 points on 5-of-14 from the field (2-of-5 from 3) and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line with six assists and six rebounds in 35 minutes. He still struggled a bit to get going inside the arc (just 3-of-9 shooting) but he stayed in attack mode all game, and that’s what Nebraska needs.
“It was very important,” Watson said. “I had a meeting with Coach Miles; he just told me he wanted me to be aggressive, play my game. The team looks for me to be aggressive, so that’s what I needed to do. Against some teams I wasn’t aggressive; it didn’t hurt us but it could have hurt us last game. I just tried to be aggressive and tried to find my teammates and do other things too just in case my shot’s not falling.”
Making Watson’s breakout performance all the more impressive was the fact that he did it while being guarded by Northwestern’s Vic Law, a 6-foot-7 wing who is a strong defender.
“Vic Law was just all over him like they were joined at the hip,” Tim Miles said. “Vic did a great job and Glynn did a great job attacking him. I was proud of him. Glynn, I think, just decided ‘Hey, I’m going to get going here.’ We tried to do some things for him but really didn’t have to because he got himself going, and that was huge for us. We need Glynn.”
Watson said he’s becoming accustomed to seeing bigger wings match up with him, like Law and Creighton’s Khyri Thomas, and is continuing to learn how to get his shots against them.
“Most teams always put a bigger guy on me just to alter my shot and make me take tough shots and things like that,” Watson said. “I’m kind of getting used to it. They do it in practice also, so I’m just trying to get used to it and find the open gap.”
Nebraska has bigger wings like Evan Taylor (6-foot-5) and James Palmer Jr. (6-foot-6) to throw at Watson in practice to prepare him for the likes of Vic Law, and that will be important again on Saturday as the Huskers are set to head to West Lafayette to take on Purdue.
The Boilermakers are led by 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior point guard Dakota Mathias, a sharp-shooting distributor who is among the best in the Big Ten defending guards. If Purdue coach Matt Painter chooses to sick Mathias on Watson rather than Palmer, the junior floor general is going to have to find a way to still be effective in all facets of the game like he was against Northwestern and Law.
Through three Big Ten games, Watson struggled mightily against Michigan State (six points, 2-of-11 shooting, two assists), he had his best game of the season against Minnesota (29 points, 9-of-17 shooting, nine rebounds) and he was strong against the Wildcats. That equals averages of 18 points, six rebounds and 3.3 assists on 38,1 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from 3 and 88.9 percent from the foul line.
In his 13 nonconference games, Watson put up 11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 40.9 percent from the field, 26.1 percent from 3 and 65.6 percent from the line.
The Big Ten is wide open this season, but in order for Nebraska to make some noise, it will need its point guard to elevate his play like he has against Northwestern and Minnesota. Miles said before the season he believes Watson has all-conference talent. Now it’s time for Watson to back that up with his play.
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.