Nebraska men’s basketball moved to 6-0 on Wednesday night, taking down Duquesne 89-79.
The Huskers trailed for nearly 17 minutes of the first half, but came out of the second half strong to take control for the eventual win. Five Nebraska players scored in double-digits, led by 23 points from Keisei Tominaga.
Here are three takeaways from the victory.
Juwan Gary Leads Difference-Making Second-Half Run
For the entire opening half and the first five minutes of the second, the two teams weren’t separated by much.
Duquesne’s largest lead of the opening period was six points, and Nebraska responded to it immediately with back-to-back buckets from junior forward Juwan Gary off the bench. By the time Gary subbed in for the first time in the second half, the Huskers were the ones holding a slim lead, needing a spark to create more than a few points of separation.
He delivered that spark. After Duquesne hit a 3 to cut Nebraska’s lead to 55-54, Gary scored nine points during a 13-0 Husker run to make the advantage 14 points. In total, 13 of his career-high 20 points on Wednesday came after halftime. He scored in a variety of ways, finishing off cuts to the rim, grabbing offensive rebounds, getting to the free-throw line and knocking down a pair of 3s.
“With Juwan shooting the ball like he is right now, it just gives a whole new dynamic to his game,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said postgame. “… He’s playing at a very high level right now.”
Gary started all 17 games he played in last year for the Huskers before his season-ending injury, and has stepped in off the bench in two games played this year. The different role has its advantages for the fifth-year player, though.
“When you on the bench you get to survey how the game is going,” Gary said.
He made an impact in his time on the floor, as did the rest of the bench. Hoiberg gave a lot of credit to guard Jarron Coleman for the run, too, as he had four second-half assists. C.J. Wilcher and Sam Hoiberg both made plays on the defensive end and made one shot each.
Nebraska’s depth has been a big part of its 6-0 start, and the Huskers will surely hope to continue to lean on it.
Lots of free throws
Officiating quickly became a topic of conversation in the game.
Duquesne guard and leading scorer Dae Dae Grant drew three fouls from Husker defenders early, two coming on missed 3-point attempts. While the whistles may have been warranted, he certainly did his job to sell the contact, raising the ire of the crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena. It didn’t take long for “flopper” chants to start when he had the ball or cheers to ring out when a fall to the ground after a shot went unrewarded.
Despite that situation, Nebraska was the team getting to the line most often, drawing 24 fouls and shooting 31 free throws in the game. This included a stretch where the Huskers went to the line on five of six possessions. Some of this certainly was a product of how the game was being officiated, but Hoiberg believes his team is one that can get to the line often. The Huskers shot 26 free throws against Oregon State recently as well.
“With the personnel on this team, we should be a team that is a high free-throw-attempt rate team,” Hoiberg said.
The coach said that being “strong with the ball” was a point of emphasis for this game in particular as well, and it showed early. Jimmy Clark III, an all-defense team member in the Atlantic 10 last year, came into the day averaging over three steals per game. He ended up having to head to the bench less than four minutes in after back-to-back fouls, the second a swipe at Tominaga’s arm on an and-one.
Some of Duquesne’s frustrations with officials boiled over in the final minutes. During the Dukes’ final push late, Clark made a layup through contact without a foul accompanying it. He raised his arms and seemingly expressed some displeasure to the official, and was promptly given a technical as his fifth and final foul. The team earned another technical foul with 17 seconds left.
Lack of turnovers
Nebraska being strong with the ball also helped lead to a lack of turnovers.
The Huskers had 18 assists on 26 makes while giving the ball away just twice. Both of those turnovers were committed by Rienk Mast on consecutive possessions early, but Nebraska followed it up by not turning it over for the final 37 minutes of game time.
“I feel like their defense is made to make you play faster,” Coleman said. “That’s the strength. I feel like if you play under control, it’s just another day.”
Nebraska won’t have turnover numbers this low every game, but the stat is an encouraging sign. The team has a number of playmakers at different positions, and seven Huskers had an assist. Josiah Allick led with five, while Rienk Mast and Jamarques Lawrence trailed Coleman with three each.