Nebraska improved to 4-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Cornhusker Classic on Wednesday with an 84-63 win over Stony Brook.
The win marks the best start for Nebraska in the Fred Hoiberg era and the first time the Huskers have been 4-0 since the 2018-19 season.
Four Huskers reached double figures in scoring led by Juwan Gary’s 19 points in his season debut. Gary is the fourth Husker to lead the team in scoring this season.
“He just brings so much,”Hoiberg said. “He has every intangible you can bring to a team when he goes on the floor. You saw how much he has been working on his shot. Even the two [3-point attempts] that he missed were right there. It was good to see him make those couple. It really helped us extend the lead.”
Rienk Mast had 14 points and was two rebounds shy of his third straight double-double. Charlotte transfer Brice Williams had 16 of his 17 points in the second half and Keisei Tominaga was just 2-of-6 from behind the arc but perfect (5-of-5) from inside of it and had 16 points.
Juwan Gary came off the bench for his first in-game action of the season for the Huskers. His impact on the game was huge. Not only did he have a game and tied a career-high 19 on 8-of-11 shooting, he was 2-of-4 from behind the arc.
“Juwan back on the court makes a big difference for our team,” Hoiberg said.
That was just the offensive end. Gary’s defense on the perimeter and in the post is something this team will absolutely need moving forward.
“He did what he always does — extra possessions, rebounding all well, defended at a high level,” Hoiberg said. “He can play multiple positions, he can play one through five. Just showed his versatility on that end of the floor. It’s great to have him back.”
After a slow start offensively it seemed as though Nebraska was just trying to find any combination that would work.
With 5:46 left in the first half, Nebraska was just 2-of-12 from behind the arc and 10-of-23 from the field.
Something Hoiberg mentioned after the game on Monday was that the defense needed to be constantly there or the team’s “constant.” Wednesday night it kept them in the game in the first half.
“We kept them at arm’s length,” Hoiberg said. “We have to continue to stress that every time we step on the floor that defense has to be our constant and I thought for the most part we did that tonight. We had a couple short closeouts on their shooters but overall it was a good effort.”
Almost Full Roster
Nebraska is almost fully healthy. Blaise Keita (ankle) and Ramel Lloyd Jr. (knee) are still working their way back from injury.
The starting lineup remained the same as Monday with Mast, Josiah Allick, Tominaga, Williams and Jamarques Lawrence.
It looks as though Gary, who started the first 17 games before injury against Illinois in January, or Allick will eventually be the starting post alongside Mast.
“We’ve got a full roster pretty much with the exception of a couple guys right now,” Hoiberg said. “Juwan back on the court makes a big difference for our team.”
The different lineups Nebraska played with on Wednesday is just a microcosm of the depth and lack of separation in talent the team has. It remains to be seen if that is a good thing or a bad thing. With more competition for playing time that could be a good thing in practices.
It also could be a test of how good the culture is and how well the team sticks together if and when things go bad on the court. It’s basketball; there will eventually be a time when it goes bad.