Palmer, Watson lead Huskers past DII SW Minnesota St. 79-38
By Eric Olson
AP Sports Writer
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska finished a three-games-in-three-weeks lull with an easy win over Division II Southwest Minnesota and now get set to resume Big Ten play with three of four games on the road.
Coach Tim Miles likes where the Cornhuskers sit.
“If you would have told me 11-2 at the beginning of the year, I’m buying. I’m in. I’d be really happy with that, and I am,” Miles said after a 79-38 win over Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday. “I feel there are efforts out there where we could have played better. All in all, you look at the collective work, it’s good play. I’m happy for the guys.”
James Palmer and Glynn Watson Jr. scored 16 points apiece, Isaac Copeland Jr. had 12 and Thomas Allen added 10 for the Huskers.
Nebraska hadn’t played since beating Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 22, and the offense took time to get clicking against SMS. The Huskers never trailed and led by as many as 41 points.
Bigger challenges await, starting Wednesday at Maryland.
“I think they’re ready,” Miles said. “They’re tired of me. They’re tired of practice. They know where we want to be as a program and they’re ready to compete. We know we’re up against it a little bit with these three-out-of-four road games against high-quality opponents. We’ve got to strap it on and play.”
SMS (7-4), playing for the first time in two weeks, got eight points each from Ryan Bruggeman and Steven McNease.
“This experience is one that the guys will remember,” Mustangs coach Brad Bigler said. “Obviously, against a talented team, any time we make mistakes they have a chance to turn it into points. They hit us right in the chin right away.”
It took the overmatched Mustangs 3 ½ minutes to score their first points — prompting a fan to shout, “There goes the shutout” — and they had more turnovers (9) than field goals (7) in the first half.
Nebraska took a quick 12-0 lead and was up 37-18 at halftime. The Huskers missed 19 of their first 27 shots and had scoring droughts of 3:10 and 4:15 in the first half. But they were 7 for 13 on 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes and 11 of 24 for the game.
“We were fairly crisp on offense even though we didn’t make shots the first half,” Miles said. “I thought we got gradually better and shot the rust off so to speak.”
The game was an exhibition for the Mustangs and a regular-season game for Nebraska. There’s a connection between the schools. Bigler played for Miles when Miles coached the Mustangs from 1997-2001.
“This is one of those deals where we’re very thankful for the opportunity,” Bigler said. “It always makes us better.”
Southwest Minnesota State: The Mustangs were paid a $30,000 guarantee, and their players got the experience of competing in a big-time atmosphere.
Nebraska: This was a stay-busy game for the Huskers in front of an understandably subdued crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The competition ratchets up next week when they resume Big Ten play with a stretch of four of six games on the road.
FIRST START FOR SENIOR
Nebraska was missing starting forward Isaiah Roby (groin) and reserve guard Amir Harris (illness). Tanner Borchardt, a former walk-on who played football at Gothenburg High, made his first start in 42 career games. He had a career-high nine rebounds to go with four points.
“I’ve been prepared for this moment all season, so I was ready to go,” Borchardt said.
Miles said Borchardt came up big early in the game, getting rebounds so the Huskers could get second chances after missing shots.
“Tanner’s got better feet than people realize,” Miles said. “That’s from old offensive line days at Gothenburg.”
Southwest Minnesota State plays at Sioux Falls on Sunday.
Nebraska visits Maryland on Wednesday.