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Watson Jr. Leads Huskers Past No. 14 Minnesota in B1G Home Opener

The Nebraska men’s basketball team (7-3), led by a game-high 29 points from junior guard Glynn Watson Jr., used its best defensive game to defeat No. 14 Minnesota () 78-68 in the Huskers’ Big Ten home opener.

Here are my takeaways from Nebraska’s big win over Minnesota.

— The Huskers get some momentum into the final stretch of brutal December slate. 

Michigan State is arguably one of the best teams in college basketball, and Tim Miles said it was the best Michigan State team he has faced in his six years. The Spartans are on another level. And after a brutal trip to East Lansing, a one-day turnaround against No. 14 Minnesota was difficult to say the least. However, after getting a big win against No. 14 Minnesota, Nebraska looks to build on that momentum against No. 2 Kansas and in-state rival Creighton.

— The Huskers were fantastic defensively. 

Isaiah Roby, Duby Okeke, Isaac Copeland and Watson were fantastic defensively. Minnesota has three, maybe four NBA players, and the Huskers took them all out of rhythm. Specifically Jordan Murphy, the B1G’s leader in scoring and rebounds. Murphy finished with 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, most of which came toward the very end. The Huskers did a solid job of playing team defense, always knowing where the Gophers’ playmakers were. NU was able to pressure their guards and the help-side and rotations were key to slowing down a talented frontcourt.

And because of Nebraska’s pressure, Minnesota struggled to get any production out of its sets and was forced to take a lot of difficult isolation shots. As a team, Minnesota shot 32 percent.

To capitalize on Minnesota’s missed shots, this was Nebraska’s best rebounding game of the season.

— Glynn Watson Jr. was very good

Watson finished with a game-high 29 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Watson was terrific offensively, scoring at timely moments, and knocking down some very difficult shots. He was a huge momentum-setter for the Husker offense. But his night wasn’t great just because of his offense. Defensively, Waston grabbed nine rebounds for a guard under 6 ft. tall and tallied three steals. Again, Watson’s pressure on the defensive end made it difficult for Minnesota to get in a flow offensively. Watson set the tone all night and showed why he’s an All-Big Ten-caliber player.

— How big of an X-factor is Isaac Copeland? 

Maybe it’s me, but it seems that every time Copeland plays well offensively, Nebraska looks dangerous. However, when Copeland struggles, Nebraska struggles. It seems to me that Copeland might be the real X-factor for Nebraska. Tonight, Copeland finished with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting (2-of-4 from 3) and five rebounds. In addition, this was arguably Copeland’s best game defensively.

So far, Watson and Palmer have been pretty good and pretty consistent. With Copeland, his ups and downs seem to correlate to Nebraska’s ups and downs. Again, maybe it’s just me, but I think he will be a huge part of NU’s success this season.

— Against a good defense, Nebraska didn’t have any nightmarish offensive struggles. Their halfcourt sets worked (sometimes)!  

Welp, the coveted scoring drought seemed non-existent tonight as Nebraska poured 78 on a pretty good defensive team. And Nebraska only scored 10 points in transition. In Nebraska’s 1-4 high set, the Huskers were able to get a lot of good looks, specifically from high-low looks from the high post. Nebraska was able to find mismatches and run through its sets to get those players open. With the 1-4 high set, NU has a plethora of options, and they were able to adjust what they did to the mismatches or advantages they had. This was the best Nebraska looked in the halfcourt against high-level competition this season. The scary thing is, when looking in more detail, Nebraska set A LOT of bad screens. SET BETTER SCREENS! Really, the 1-4 high sets that NU runs, there are a lot of screens and often times those screens were pretty poor on Nebraska’s end. Whether it was the player getting screened or the screener, that needs to improve. But again, Miles’ squad reacted very well to a solid defense and was able to get good looks in halfcourt sets.    

— Dare I ask, is Nebrasketball back? If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think Nebrasketball is quite back.  In fact, most years Nebraska has one of these marquee wins, so I’m not going to take it for much until I see more consistency. Remember, this is the same team that made St. John’s look like Duke. However, on the bright side. Nebraska’s best game of the season came when Scott Frost was in the building.. Coincidence? Or

However, on the bright side. Nebraska’s best game of the season came when Scott Frost was in the building.. Coincidence? Or the Frost Factor? Regardless, we’ll all find out more about Nebraska after taking on Kansas and Creighton in the coming week.

After the win, Nebraska will travel to Omaha to take on in-state rival Creighton on Saturday. The Bluejays have defeated the Huskers for six years in a row. The rivals will tip off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Omaha, and the game will be televised by FS1.

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