Few Words Needed To Discuss Husker Rout
So, what do you say after winning a basketball game by 69 points?
Not much, apparently.
That explains why coach Tim Miles had a post-game news conference that lasted all of 3 ½ minutes, and why three Nebraska men’s basketball players fielded a combined five questions that yielded very little analysis.
Of course, again, there’s not much to ask or analyze or discuss after Nebraska did what it did to Mississippi Valley State in the first game of the 2018-19 season.
Four Nebraska players scored in double figures, the Huskers made 15 shots from 3-point range, and Nebraska finished with its second-largest margin of victory in school history by defeating the Delta Devils 106-37 before 9,322 fans at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
What does Miles garner from such a lopsided affair?
“I start with just the team mentality,” Miles said after his seventh season opener with Nebraska. “I thought the guys respected the game, played hard throughout the game.”
Overall, Nebraska “did a lot of things right,” Miles said, in producing its highest point total since 2005. It marked only the third time in 21 years Nebraska had scored at least 100 points in a game, and two have been within the last calendar year.
Senior guard Glynn Watson Jr. scored 19 points in 19 minutes, senior guard James Palmer Jr. scored 17 points in 20 minutes, and Nebraska (1-0) limited the sloppy play that sometimes occurs when substitutes enter and the margin is anybody’s guess. The Huskers finished with a mere 11 turnovers, and they had 23 assists on 38 made field goals, a sign of good ball movement and scores out of the flow of the offense, and in transition.
In general, despite the competition, the Huskers looked like a team deserving of its No. 25 preseason ranking in the USA Today coaches poll.
“Sometimes after a game like this you don’t feel good, or whatever,” Miles said, “but I thought our guys just hung in there and kept doing the right things for a long time.”
Miles said he paid particular attention to the younger players, and came away impressed with freshman center Brady Heiman (nine points, 13 rebounds) and sophomore guard Nana Akenten (18 points, four rebounds).
Akenten battled various issues during a freshman season in which he played in only seven games, never logging more than 6 minutes. Miles gave the Bollingbrook, Illinois, native time off in the spring to reflect on his career, uncertain of whether he’d return.
He did, and Akenten zoned in more than ever. His work paid off to the tune of 5-of-11 shooting from 3-point range against the Delta Devils.
“I think people had a chance to see what we saw in him,” Miles said. “He’s really never had a chance to show out, so it was good for him to get some reps, up and down the floor. You can see why we like him.”
Nebraska, coming off a 4-of-26 performance from 3-point range in an exhibition game against Wayne State College, finished 15-of-37 on 3-pointers Tuesday night. The 40 percent figure doesn’t mean Miles is totally at ease with his team’s perimeter shooting, though.
“We’re day by day,” Miles said. “I like the way we shoot it. I’ve seen us do it in practice, I know what our numbers are in practice. I think it’s one of those things where we’re going to have some tough nights, but we’re going to have some good nights.”
For example, Miles had no qualms with a late 3-pointer the 6-foot-11 Heiman launched, even though he misfired.
“He’s got to be able to take those,” Miles said, “because he’s going to end up being a stretch-4, stretch-5 kind of guy for us.”
Twelve Huskers suited, and 12 Huskers played, with 11 scoring. Nebraska established control early, with Palmer making a 3-pointer after the Huskers won the opening tip. Nebraska bolted to a 20-4 lead and led 55-13 at halftime.
“At halftime, we preached to just finish the game strong and to not worry about the score,” Palmer said. “It was a good win for us and to get our feet wet, but we still need to up our overall game, offense and defense.”
Nebraska hosts Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday, while Mississippi Valley State (0-1) plays at Texas Tech. These are all preliminary games for the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, where the Huskers will face Missouri State, and then either USC or Texas Tech, later this month.
“Tonight was a reality check,” Mississippi Valley State coach Andre Payne said. “I’ve told them how it is to play in this environment and how it is to play a high level team, but when you got seven new guys, they think, ‘Well, coach may just be trying to scare me.’
“These guys are really that good. They’re really that tall, they’re really that long, they’re really that athletic and they really shoot it that well. It’s a reality check.”
Reach Brian at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.