Nebraska basketball improved to 6-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 season and here are three takeaways.
This doesn’t look like the same old Nebraska basketball team. The Huskers made progress last season but so far in 2023-24, they look like an NCAA tournament team.
Duquesne was the biggest challenge that the Huskers have faced so far this season and for much of the way, the Dukes had the lead. Nebraska didn’t lead by more than two points until about midway through the second half.
For much of the night, Nebraska was playing pretty good defense. The Dukes just hit some tough shots. That started to stop in the second half long enough for Nebraska to make a run thanks to Juwan Gary, who was incredible off the bench.
Keisei Tominaga didn’t shoot the ball well from deep, but he scored the ball well and finished with 23 points and helped seal the deal late. The 89-79 victory was a key win early for the Huskers and here are three takeaways.
Juwan Gary has been incredible
Gary missed the end of last season with an injury and he’s only played in three games so far this season, but he’s been lights out. Gary is averaging 17 points per game and hit the 20-point mark on Wednesday night after scoring 19 and 12 in games earlier this season.
Gary hit two triples in the second half during Nebraska’s 13-0 run in the second half that allowed the Huskers to take control of the game. Gary also grabbed five rebounds and is a solid defender.
At this point, I’m wondering if Fred Hoiberg will continue to bring him off the bench. He played 22 minutes which was one less than Tominaga and Josiah Allick — both starters. Nebraska basketball had nine guys play double-digit minutes on Wednesday, which seems like that will be the norm going forward.
Regardless of whether it’s as a starter or off the bench, Gary might need more minutes. He’s been a different player so far this season.
Free throw line was a huge factor
The 2-point battle was going to be a key to this game — it always is. Nowadays, most teams score at the 3-point line and at the rim. Surprisingly, the Dukes held their own on 2-point field goals. They actually made a few more than the Huskers and both teams made 58 percent of their 2-point attempts.
Yet, the big difference in scoring there was the free throw line. Nebraska did a great job of drawing fouls, especially in the second half.
Duquesne was averaging 10 3-pointers per game and Nebraska basketball held them to eight. So the Huskers won the 3-point battle and were plus-13 at the charity stripe, which is a big advantage to overcome.
A simple formula
Duquesne is a quality team. They are ranked in the top 100 of the Kenpom rankings and my thought is that they will stay there. But when you do all the little things as well as Nebraska did on Wednesday night, it’s hard to lose.
For starters, Nebraska had just two turnovers. Two. The Huskers also had 18 assists. Nebraska only forced six turnovers and they were actually out-rebounded, which was sort of frustrating, but they only fouled 13 times compared to 27 for the other side.
The Dukes also assisted on just eight of their 28 field goals. Nebraska assisted on 18 of 26, meaning the Huskers were getting quality looks and forcing the Dukes to make a lot of tough plays — which they did for much of the night but couldn’t sustain it.
Nebraska has weapons all over the floor, plus, when you have guys like C.J. Wilcher, Juwan Gary, Sam Hoiberg, and Jarron Coleman coming off the bench, it makes your team hard to defend. Nebraska won that part of the game too having a bench advantage of 27-19.
Nebraska is deep, plays solid defense, can shoot the 3-ball, plays well in the paint, and has a star in Keisei Tominaga. So yes, this is the best team Huskers team we’ve seen in a while and Wednesday reinforced that.
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