Roby Makes Up For Lost Time
Hey, Isaiah Roby wanted to have some fun, too.
For more than half of Nebraska’s 80-57 thumping of Seton Hall in Wednesday night’s Gavitt Games at Pinnacle Bank Arena, Roby tried to make the most of his time on the sideline, with the noted Bench Mob.
This, of course, is not where a man with Roby’s talents belongs. Yet because of foul trouble – not all of it Roby’s doing, most would agree – the 6-foot-8 junior forward had to cheer while watching James Palmer Jr. drive to the rim and Isaac Copeland Jr. hit jumpers and Glynn Watson Jr. dish out no-look passes.
Finally, when the score dictated that his four fouls mattered no more, Roby re-entered the game and unleashed some pent up frustration.
It began with 2 minutes remaining, when Roby slipped toward the basket on a screen and roll, with Watson, the senior point guard, driving from the top of the key. Watson, near the free-throw line, then lofted the ball perfectly toward the rim, where Roby waited.
Ka-boom, with one hand, and Roby put himself on highlight reels everywhere, his dunk mesmerizing those remaining from a crowd of 13,245.
“I didn’t even see Roby,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said, “until he just appeared, and I’m like, ‘Woah!’ ”
How does Roby even know when to jump to time the play to such perfection?
“That happens a lot. I don’t know why,” Roby said. “I don’t know what it is. Me and Glynn always seem to connect on that. He throws it up high, and I just go get it. Sometimes I forget I can jump that high.
“As soon as he threw it, I knew I was going to get it. I was hoping one of their guys would jump with me, but I knew I was going to get it.”
Get it, he did.
“I just tried to find him,” Watson said. “I’d seen him open a little bit late and I just threw the pass.”
Roby wasn’t finished, though. He pulled up from the right wing with 23 seconds remaining and sank a 3-pointer for Nebraska’s final points of the night.
“It was just good to get in on the fun,” Roby said. “My teammates were having all the fun. I had to get my little fun at the end, for sure.”
Nebraska (3-0) used a 36-15 run to put away Seton Hall (1-1) after the Pirates had sliced the Huskers’ lead to two points with 13:32 remaining. That came after Roby, standing at the top of the key, basically minding his own business, drew his fourth foul on what the official deemed was an illegal screen.
It not only wiped out a Palmer 3-pointer, it sent the crowd into a frenzy, and Miles beyond that. He picked up a technical foul, and the Pirates scored four straight points thereafter to pull within 44-42.
Making matters worse, a very lengthy monitor delay to determine time remaining gave Miles reason to worry, wondering how his team would respond.
Worry not – not with this veteran group.
“I thought our kids came back,” Miles said, “and really played rock solid.”
They just had to do so without Roby, meaning former walk-on Tanner Borchardt and true freshman Brady Heiman had to man the middle. Aside from some issues defending screen and roll, the duo managed fine – they combined for nine rebounds and three steals, with Borchardt scoring two points and Heiman adding a blocked shot.
Roby, in his 17 minutes, finished with seven points, four rebounds and three assists, with a steal and a blocked shot.
“Isaiah Roby had probably the best 90 seconds of the night,” Miles said. “That’s about all he had. People can see why we want him in there.”
This isn’t the first time Roby has experienced foul trouble, and rest assured, he understands the importance of him staying on the court for the good of Nebraska.
“In high school I had foul trouble, too, and my coach always told me the first one is just as important as the last one, or the fourth one,” Roby said. “You can’t get mad about the fourth one when you have the first three already. I gotta play smarter.”
Then again, it’s saying something when Nebraska, with arguably its most talented player saddled with foul trouble, and with a 27.8 percent shooting performance in the first half, can still defeat a Big East Conference team by 23 points.
“We beat a quality opponent that’s well coached and has a difficult system to go against, and beat them handily,” Miles said. “I’m very happy with our mindset.”
Palmer finished with 29 points, the second-highest total of his career, despite beginning the game 0-of-8 from the field. He gave a big fist pump after finally hitting a 3-pointer to end that drought, and did most of his scoring damage, as the senior guard often does, from the three-throw line, where he went 13-of-18.
Copeland, meanwhile, finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for his fifth career double, and Watson, in addition to his 14 points, led the defensive charge on Myles Powell, who led Seton Hall with 24 points, but shot a mere 7-of-21 from the field. A junior guard with 167 career 3-pointers, Powell averaged 15.5 points last season and scored 30 in the Pirates’ season opener.
“He’s a great scorer,” Watson said. “He moves a lot without the ball, and you always have to move with him. It was just a good test for me to move my feet and try to stay out of foul trouble.”
Nebraska held Seton Hall to 2-of-16 on 3-pointers. The Pirates had won both of their previous matchups in the Gavitt games, against Iowa and Indiana.
“That’s a good team, and that’s a big win for us,” Roby said. “That’s a team that’s been in the tournament two, three times in a row, so that’s a big win. Winning by 23, that’s big time, and defending home court is always big.”
The crowd became especially boisterous after the controversial call on Roby, and the ensuing technical foul, although Miles gave credit to the fans, especially the students, from the game’s beginning.
Indeed, the atmosphere at times felt like a February Big Ten tilt with NCAA Tournament implications.
“Thanks to our fans and our crowd,” said Miles, who won his 100th game at Nebraska. “That was really fun to be a part of.”
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.