Photo by Isabel Thalken/Nebraska Communications

A Feel-Good Victory Keeps Huskers On Track

By Brian Rosenthal

Nebraska’s 71-62 win over Boston College in Wednesday night’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge personified a feel-good victory.

The Huskers made nine three-pointers, on 19 attempts. They shot 57.7 in the first half. Four players scored in double figures as part of a balanced effort. They shared the ball. They stole the ball. Subs, like Jack McVeigh, did their part, too. They never trailed.

And, arguably, for the first time this season, Nebraska followed one strong half of basketball with another good one.

All if it played out before 10,742 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena – including Mike Riley and his wife.

Yes, feel-good indeed.

Only four days removed as Nebraska’s football coach, Riley attended wearing Nebraska gear, he and Dee guests of Tim Miles.

“I kind of wanted to go up and give him a big high-five and a hug,” said Miles, the sixth-year Nebraska men’s basketball coach. “Coach Riley is a first-class guy.”

Miles said he received a call earlier in the week from Nebraska Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm, wondering if Miles had extra tickets for Wednesday’s game. Miles said maybe. When he found out who’d be using them, he changed his answer to a quick affirmative.

“I’m like, ‘Absolutely, man,’ ” Miles said. “I’m happy to see him here. He’s a man of class and grace and dignity. It’s good to have that kind of fan with us.”

Nebraska (6-2) gave Riley a good performance, too. The Huskers made five of their first seven three-point attempts in bolting to an early lead.

“We have a little more versatility, a little more depth, and better shooting,” Miles said. “I think you’ve seen that recently. We can go out and get eight, nine threes a game. That’s possible for us. That hasn’t been the case in some years.”

Isaac Copeland and James Palmer Jr. scored 15 points apiece, Evan Taylor scored a season-high 13, and Glynn Watson Jr. finished with 10 points, six assists and two steals. Miles said Watson was feeling lightheaded and not always himself.

“When Glynn is into the ball, he’s good,” Miles said. “He just wasn’t into the ball very much early, and then when he did, we stretched the lead to eight or nine points right before halftime.”

Indeed, Watson swished a three-pointer from the corner that beat the halftime buzzer and gave the Huskers a 44-36 lead.

Nebraska stretched the lead to 11 before Boston College (5-3) whittled the margin to 51-50 with 10:08 remaining.

The Huskers were clinging to a 59-57 lead with 7:10 remaining but came up with eight straight defensive stops as part of a 12-0 run that put the game way. The Eagles didn’t score again until 1:15 remained – a drought of nearly 6 minutes.

“Today, they made their runs, but we stayed strong,” said Taylor, who finished 3-for-3 on three-pointers. “We never lost the lead, so it’s just a sign of growth. Hopefully, we can build on that.”

Boston College played without injured guard Jordan Chatman, the Eagles’ fourth-leading scorer, and lost guard Deontae Hawkins to a knee injury in the first half. He averages 13.6 points, and scored four points in 11 minutes before leaving.

Of course, Nebraska played with sophomore wing Isaiah Roby, whom Miles said, statistically speaking, is the Huskers’ most efficient player. He suffered a low ankle sprain in Sunday’s victory over Long Beach State and watched Wednesday wearing jeans and his letter jacket, his foot in a walking boot.

Miles said Roby has actually improved from crutches to the boot to being able to walk without a boot, “but I don’t think that assures anything for Sunday.”

Oh yes, Sunday. That’s the start of Big Ten Conference play for Nebraska, which travels to No. 3 Michigan State. It’s the first game in a grueling four-game stretch that also features No. 12 Minnesota, at No. 25 Creighton and No. 2 Kansas.

“It’s going to be hard, but it’s an opportunity to show the world what Nebraska basketball is and to get better,” Taylor said. “I’m excited, and I know our guys are excited and we hope for the best.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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