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Hot Start For Huskers Not Enough to Top Creighton

Despite leading for the majority of the opening 20 minutes and bringing a lead into halftime, Creighton (7-2) stole the show in the second half to defeat Nebraska (7-4) 75-65.

Nebraska was led by junior Isaac Copeland, which was his sixth appearance against the Jays (now 4-2 against CU). Copeland tallied a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, while junior James Palmer Jr. added 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Here are my takeaways from Nebraska’s loss to Creighton. 

I have to confess that I watched the game on my phone at a car dealership, but I saw a few things that stood out to me.

— Nebraska executed the gameplan very well defensively. 

Coming into Saturday’s contest, Creighton brought in the 5th-ranked offense in the country, averaging over 100 points per game at the CenturyLink Center. For Tim Miles and the Huskers, this was the emphasis and key to stopping the Jays and getting a win in Omaha.

To begin the game, Nebraska executed the gameplan nearly to perfection, slowing down the tempo and forcing Creighton to score in the halfcourt against Miles’ long, athletic defense that played so well in a win vs. No. 14 Minnesota.

Like Tuesday, the defense seemed to have been there to help fuel another upset win.

— Nebraska needed to extend its lead in the first half.

Going into halftime, Creighton was 2-of-13 from 3 and 2-of-7 from the free throw line with 10 turnovers. AND Khyri Thomas was on the bench with foul trouble and CU leading scorer Marcus Foster had just two points.

Nebraska should have gone into half with a bigger lead.

— Creighton looked more like Creighton in the second half

Creighton was better in the second half. Not great, but better. And for the most part, Nebraska was able to keep up, but Watson’s foul trouble and absence on the court killed Nebraska – which brings me to another point.

— Glynn Watson Jr. is vital to Husker offense 

Without Watson on the floor, Nebraska’s offense looked lost. Copeland and Palmer found ways to score, but in a consistent halfcourt offense without Watson, Nebraska needs a guard to not only be a scoring threat but to handle the ball and set up the offense. This is a role that Evan Taylor and Anton Gill are not used to, and it showed.

Despite Watson fouling out with a couple minutes to go, Nebraska found itself still in the game and down three with just under a minute.

— Should Miles have gone to the 1-3-1?

With 1:04 to go, Creighton had the ball up three. In the timeout, Miles elected to go with a 1-3-1 (which they hadn’t run all game, but have run before this season) defense to try and stop the Jays on one of the most important possessions of the game.

On one hand, your man-to-man defense has played pretty well all game and it’s tough to go to a zone against a team that shoots it as well as Creighton.

On the other hand, Creighton didn’t see the 1-3-1 all game, and probably wasn’t expecting it. Going with the 1-3-1 could catch them off guard. In addition, going to a 1-3-1 gives Nebraska an opportunity to use its length and quickness to try and force a quick turnover while having set help-side defense.

There are pros and cons to each decision, but Miles elected to go to the zone and Foster found himself open for a HUGE 3 that sealed the win for Creighton.

— Nebraska shot just 4 Free Throws 

For a team that loves to attack the rim, shooting just four free throws is a disaster. And while I know the officiating was poor, Nebraska didn’t give itself many opportunities to get to the line. And when Nebraska did get to the lane, credit Creighton’s bigs to contest shots without fouling. Of course, the refs missed some calls but one could argue missed calls on both sides. The officiating is not what won Creighton the game or lost Nebraska the game. It is not an excuse for why the Huskers lost.

— The Reality

The realities of this game is that:

  1. Nebraska executed the gameplan perfectly but needed to capitalize better, especially in the first half.
  2. Given that Creighton is a very good, talented team, it’s a good sign to see Nebraska play as well as they did for stretches of the game.
  3. Creighton is just a better, more talented team.

A sign of a good team is winning when you play as poorly as CU did to start, especially against a pretty good team coming off a top-15 win, and win the game. At the end of the day, when the game went down to the wire, Creighton had better playmakers and better shot-makers. And really, that was a reason why Nebraska could never extend its lead… they missed a lot of open shots. And it’s not just today, Nebraska has struggled to simply make shots all season, hence the consistent scoring droughts.

There are a lot of positives to take away from Omaha, but of course, Miles and company thought they should be going back to Lincoln with a win.

It doesn’t get easier for Nebraska as the Huskers host Kansas at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday, December 16th in what is expected to be an electric atmosphere. Stay tuned to HuskerHype (@HuskerHype) this week for a detailed preview in a must-see matchup.


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