LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska couldn’t get much of anything going early on in its season opener against Sacramento State on Sunday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena, but cruised nonetheless to an 83-61 win.
Sophomore point guard Glynn Watson Jr. led the Huskers with a career-high 23 points along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Senior guard Tai Webster added 20 points and 5 rebounds.
WHY: This game was closer that it probably should have been primarily because for the first time in five years, a Tim Miles-coached team made a concerted effort to work the offense from the inside-out. Watson and Webster looked to feed Michael Jacobson, Ed Morrow and Jordy Tshimanga down on the block, but the forwards just couldn’t seem to finish at the rim.
Combined, the big men were 4 of 13 for just 8 points in the first half. Nebraska’s struggles down low improved a bit in the second half, but not much. Morrow ended with 15 points and 6 rebounds; Jacobson and Tshimanga combined for just 2 points.
Defensively, Nebraska did enough to rattle Sacramento State, forcing 13 turnovers and holding the Hornets to 33-percent shooting from the floor in the second half.
WHO SHOWED UP: Watson asserted himself as the main guy for Nebraska on Sunday.
The starting point guard and 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first half alone. He added 2 steals, 2 assists and 3 rebounds in the game’s opening 20 minutes, setting the tone early while his teammates seemed to take forever to get going.
For a team without a star, Watson threw his name into consideration as a go-to guy.
Nebraska also showed up in the second half after sleeping through the first. The Huskers started the half on a 16-6 run after leading by only 3 at the break.
Miles played 10 guys in the first half but suck with his starting five (Watson, Webster, Morrow, Jack McVeigh and Jacobson) for most of the second.
In the end, Nebraska ended up shooting 48 percent from the floor and 6 of 11 (54.5 percent) from 3-point range.
WHO STUMBLED: The freshmen and big men didn’t play great.
Morrow, a sophomore, struggled when he got the ball with his back to the basket (but was better when he could face-up and attack). Freshman Tshimanga seemed a little anxious in his first college basketball game and rushed a few shots from down low. He ended with zero points on 0 of 7 shooting in 10 minutes of play.
Fellow freshman Isaiah Roby, who was 5 for 5 from the floor in Nebraska’s exhibition game against Chadron State on Nov. 7, played only 10 minutes and scored just 2 points on a pair of free throws on Sunday.
Miles has high hopes for Roby. Sunday’s performance could very well have been freshman jitters.
WHAT IT MEANS: Nebraska clearly has some work to do.
The Huskers are a young team that starts four sophomores and has only one senior (Webster) on the roster.
Granted, the season opened on a Sunday night in front of a sleepy crowd, but nonetheless it took a while for the Huskers to remember they were playing a Big Sky team that won 14 games last season.
After they did, things started to click and the ball seemed to move better on offense. But against Big Ten competition, or even against upcoming nonconference foes Dayton or Clemson, Nebraska would’ve been buried.
Sunday proved a new offense that isn’t predicated around one scorer like last year with Andrew White III, or the year before that with Terran Petteway, will take some time to for this young group to get used to.
WHO IS NEXT: Nebraska will host the University of Mary at 8 p.m. ET (7 p.m. CT) on Tuesday.
Final box score: pic.twitter.com/qVJQlSOrQx
— Christopher Heady (@heady_chris) November 14, 2016