1 2 F Nebraska 27 33 - 60 Rutgers 25 29 - 54
Huskers Top Scarlet Knights
Isaac Copeland’s 23 points led three Huskers in double figures while Glynn Watson Jr. made a trio of big plays in the final three minutes, as Nebraska picked up a crucial 60-54 win at Rutgers Wednesday evening.
Copeland hit 9-of-15 shots from the field, including a trio of 3-pointers, for a game-high 23 points while adding seven rebounds and two blocked shots as Nebraska improved to 15-8 on the season and 6-4 in the Big Ten.
While Copeland and James Palmer Jr., who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists keyed a decisive second-half run, Watson hit two big baskets after the Scarlet Knights trimmed the Husker leads to two points.
Leading 50-48, Watson hit a circus shot to stretch NU’s lead to four. Rutgers (12-10, 2-7 Big Ten) whittled the lead back to 54-52 after a Candido Sa basket with 1:16 left and NU missed a 3-point attempt, but Copeland’s offensive rebound kept possession for the Huskers. NU would take advantage, as Watson’s driving layup gave the Huskers a 56-52 lead. On Rutgers’ next possession, Watson drew a change off Corey Sanders to give the Huskers the ball. Nebraska salted the game at the line, as Palmer went 4-of-4 from the charity stripe to give NU its second road win of the season.
Watson finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, as Nebraska shot 39.6 percent but went 13-of-16 from the foul line and limited Rutgers to just 33.8 percent shooting.
Sanders led three Scarlet Knights with 14 points, while Geo Baker and Deshawn Freeman added 10 apiece.
The first half featured five ties and seven lead changes before the Huskers went to the locker room with a 27-25 halftime lead. Isaac Copeland and James Palmer Jr. had 11 points apiece for the Huskers who shot 39 percent in the opening 20 minutes and held the Scarlet Knights to 37.5 percent shooting.
Nebraska used a 6-0 run to erase an early 3-point deficit, getting a 3-pointer from Palmer Jr., a jumper from Glynn Watson Jr. and a Roby free throw to take a 14-11 lead at the 11:14 mark. Rutgers would respond, with five straight points, capped by a Deshawn Freeman 3-point play at the 8:23 mark of the half to take a 16-14 lead.
Rutgers led 22-19 before the Huskers used an 8-3 run to close the first half, as Copeland and Palmer combined for all eight of the Husker points. The Huskers run off six straight points, including a pair of Palmer baskets, to push the lead 25-22 with 1:03 left. Freeman, who had eight first-half points, tied it at 25 all on a 3-point play with 45 seconds left in the half, but two Copeland free throws on the ensuing possession sent the Huskers into the half with a small margin.
Nebraska trailed 32-31 before a Watson jumper triggered a 10-0 Husker run. Palmer hit a 3 on a well-designed play off the under 16 timeout before Copeland’s three from the top of the circle stretched the lead to 39-32 with 15:22 left and forced a Scarlet Knights timeout. Copland stretched the margin to nine after a follow up slam to put NU up 41-32 with 14:52 left.
Rutgers pulled within 44-42 on a Corey Sanders basket with 13:23 left, but a pair of Roby free throws and a Copeland 3-pointer with 7:21 left extended NU’s lead to 49-42. Rutgers would eventually get within 49-46 after Eugene Omoruyi’s putback with 5:36 left but the Huskers made the plays to hold off the Scarlet Knights down the stretch.
The Huskers return to Pinnacle Bank Arena Saturday night, as they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be carried on the IMG Husker Sports Network and televised on BTN. Saturday’s game is already a sellout, as it is the annual Coaches vs. Cancer game.
Nebraska Head Coach Tim Miles
On defending Corey Sanders: “First of all, we remembered that he torched us last time and made the game-winning play. That didn’t escape us. And we’re not the type of team that always accumulates causes and has revenge on the mind. But at the same time, we know how difficult it is to win here. We had a lead late last year, they came back and we turned it over a couple times. I was worried when we started turning it over in the second half that it was going to happen again. But Glenn (Watson Jr.) did a good job, Anton Gill did a good job, Evan Taylor did a good job (defensively). We tried to run different guys at he and Geo (Baker) because they’re a handful. I thought we did a nice job chasing guys off the three-point line, contesting shots. We have some length inside that can help us too.”
On deciding to attack the rim: “Towards the end of the first half. I thought we were taking too many dribble twos, and so we called a few actions to kind of get us downhill. James (Palmer Jr.) is really good at that. He was able to get the ball to the rim, and get I think he got fouled and got some hoops. James is really tough when he can get in there, get the contact and still score. And then in the second half, we had a couple actions that were draw ups. We drew up the first one where we get a dunk off (Isaiah) Roby and a dunk off a transition hoop. That’s a great way to start the half confidence-wise. The guys really feed off of that.”
On James Palmer and Issac Copeland: “Short turnaround, we were just at Ohio State grinding and come down to the last minute, and lose that game. And then grinded them back into oblivion today. They did an excellent job. James looked good at the end and so did Issac. Issac probably felt more confidence, hit a couple threes, had a couple inside scores that were strong for us. And made some really nice defensive plays on (Deshawn) Freeman. We have the length and do defend well. We held to them to 16, 17 percent from three and 34 percent from the field. That’s pretty good D against anybody. I know that neither of us two teams are juggernauts offensively. I’m not going to pretend we’re the Warriors. We’re like the Doland Wheelers, which is my high school team. God bless.”
On pushing the tempo: “We just need to get downhill, whether it be transition or action that got us to the rim. We know how difficult they are to score on the rim. I think we probably moved them around too much and then hung up jumpers early because we said I’d rather attack later in the possession. For young guys, attacking usually means a 17-foot jumper, coach. We just talked about making it happen, and then some good things happened. We tipped the ball out there for a few long rebounds. There really wasn’t a design or a plan or a commitment to this is what we’re going to do. I think it just kind of happened. But it got us confident and we were able to get the lead, keep the lead, and they may have went ahead once or tied it once, but you have to play from the lead on the road.”
On Glynn Watson: “I’ll tell you his grin from ear to ear in the locker room tells me his confidence is doing okay right now. He made some really tough plays, the charge he took late and then that layup right before that. Those were big-time plays, and plays that we needed. I hope Glynn can build off that because those are winning plays. You don’t win without them.”