Photo by Allyssa Hynes/Nebraska Communications

Copeland, Gill Provide Needed Scoring Punch

By Brian Rosenthal

You have to wonder, based on Sunday’s results, if Tim Miles has looked into another Nebraska basketball player – or two – joining the living quarters of Isaac Copeland and Anton Gill.

Of course, they say two’s company, and three’s a crowd, but considering roommates Copeland and Gill combined for 46 points on 18-of-23 shooting and seven three-pointers in the Huskers’ 92-70 victory over North Dakota …

“I’m just so happy for them,” said Miles, the Nebraska coach, “because I know what a relief it is, how exciting it is for them, and they deserve it.”

Miles was referring directly to the fact that both Copeland, a transfer from Georgetown in his first year with the Huskers, and Gill, a transfer from Louisville in his second year of eligibility, have overcome injuries and frustration to contribute to the Huskers' winning ways.

“They’ve worked every day, they’ve struggled, without any groaning or griping,” Miles said. “They just stayed with it. Hopefully, this is the start of the beginning, right?”

Copeland stole the show before 10,249 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena. He scored 30 points – two shy of his career-high – on 12-of-14 shooting, to go with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. He even swished three 3-pointers, after going 0-of-8 from beyond the arc to begin the season.

“He’s been doing this his whole life,” Gill said. “I’ve known him since – how long now? Forever? – and he’s been doing this. This is him. This is what we expected.”

Copeland had 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the first half, as Nebraska (3-1) built a 17-point lead.

“It felt good,” said Copeland, who underwent back surgery in February to repair a herniated disc. “I have a good support system around me, so my dad calls me pretty much daily to let me know to keep working and stay positive, and it’s eventually going to happen.

“I didn’t expect it to be 30 points, but I’ll take it.”

I asked Copeland if North Dakota, probably noticing his 7-of-22 shooting from the field through three games, gave the 6-foot-9 forward something, or if Copeland simply took what he saw.

Gill quickly interrupted.

“He was taking it,” Gill said.

Copeland smiled.

“Yeah, chill out,” he said, drawing laughter. “Chill out.”

More laughter, before Copeland continued: “You want me to answer that?”

Well, sure, go ahead.

“I don’t know, I just wanted to be aggressive,” Copeland said. “To be honest, I’m taking a lot of the same shots, maybe more at the rim. But a lot of the same shots I’ve been taking were just falling today.”

That’s exactly what Miles predicted after watching Copeland go 2-of-9 shooting in Thursday’s lopsided loss at St. John’s in the Gavitt Tipoff Games.

“Like I told him against St. John’s,” Miles said, “ ‘You’re at the back of the rim now. It’s only a matter of time. Everything was short early, and now you’re on the back of the rim, and they’re going to go.’ Certainly, they did in a big way.”

Copeland’s performance marked the first time a Husker scored at least 30 points in a game since Glynn Watson scored 34 in last year’s 93-90 double overtime victory over Iowa in Lincoln.

That game also marked the last time the Huskers hit 90 points in a game.

Gill, who missed most of last season after tearing his ACL, and then had a groin injury that held him back early this season, scored 11 of his 16 in the second half. He finished 3-of-4 from three-point range.

“Honestly, I’m just glad to be back playing, after the groin and everything,” Gill said. “All of this just feels great to be back doing something that I love. Just being back out there with my guys means everything to me.”

Gill actually had trainers’ clearance to play before the season began, but he still sat out the first two games.

“I just had to get my legs back under me,” he said. “There was a lot of fatigue and stuff like that. But I think missing those first two games was probably the best thing to happen for me, because my legs feel great. I feel bouncy again. Now I feel like I’m getting back to myself.”

That’s good, because when Copeland (pictured above) and Gill are playing healthy, it makes the Huskers much more lethal offensively.

“I’m really happy for those two guys to bust out,” Miles said. “I’m looking forward to other guys getting in a better rhythm and our whole operation getting better."

What's even better, this came against a formidable North Dakota team that won the Big Sky Conference tournament title last season for an NCAA Tournament automatic bid. That team went 22-10, and two starters and six letterwinners returned.

 “This is what this team has to be," Miles said of Nebraska's talented depth. "This is what we haven’t had. That’s what the depth is that we’ve talked about all year, because the depth has quality and can make plays.”

Reach Brian at or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.


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