NU makes a statement in 82-67 win over Colorado

There is only so much one can take away from an October charity exhibition game. Still, Nebraska’s performance in a dominant 82-67 win over Colorado on Sunday was about as big of a statement possible in that situation.

Bryce McGowens led all scorers with 15 points, while Alonzo Verge Jr. had 10 points, five rebounds, six assists, and three steals to lead the Huskers.

Nebraska jumped all over Colorado to start the game. The Huskers hit five of their first seven 3-pointers and used a 17-2 run to go up by as many as 22 and take a 44-28 halftime lead.

A 10-0 run by Colorado trimmed the lead down to 13 early in the second half, but NU fired right back and eventually pushed its advantage up to as many as 27.

The Buffaloes, which shot 32.4 percent from the field and 3-of-19 from 3-point range, finally started making some baskets and capitalized on a 17-2 run of their own to pull back within 69-57 with 5:21 left.

But the Huskers again found a way to answer, as Derrick Walker – who scored eight of his 12 points in the second half – and McGowens came up with enough critical buckets down the stretch to hold CU at bay.

CJ Wilcher scored 12 points with three 3-pointers off the bench, as Nebraska shot 49.2 percent from the field and finished 12-of-27 from behind the arc as a team.

1. Rebounding, turnovers show NU still has a long way to go

There was a lot to like about Nebraska’s first real test leading up to the season, but two of its most concerning problems areas were impossible to ignore.

The Huskers were out-rebounded 47-37 overall and gave up a 23-10 disadvantage on the offensive glass to Colorado.

That wasn’t a total surprise considering NU’s known weakness on the boards and CU’s considerable size and length, but it gave a glimpse of what life could be like come Big Ten play.

Maybe the more frustrating issue was Nebraska’s 17 turnovers. After giving it away just nine times in the first exhibition vs. Peru State, the Huskers had eight turnovers in the first half alone.

They were fortunate that the Buffaloes only converted those giveaways into 10 points, but much of that had to do with CU missing a whopping 48 shots.

Hoiberg credited guys like Walker (six rebounds) and Wilhelm Breidenbach for “battling” in the paint but said NU’s guards needed to be much more active on the glass.

“Obviously the rebounding, that’s the biggest thing that you take out of this,” Hoiberg said. “That’s how (Colorado) got back in the game.”

2. Point guard depth needs improvement 

Nebraska had already solifified its primary ball handlers with Verge and Trey McGowens. The question was, who else would step up at point guard in their absence?

The Huskers had to figure that out on the fly on Sunday, as both Verge and McGowens picked up two early fouls, and Hoiberg had to manage their minutes for much of the first half.

It didn’t help that one of the next top options, senior guard Kobe Webster, was held out of the game with back spasms. That left Bryce McGowens as the next man up at point guard when both Trey and Verge were out.

Hoiberg said Bryce was “solid” as the main facilitator in those opportunities vs. Colorado and had worked in that role this offseason.

But the overall flow of the offense is drastically better when Verge is on the floor, as his 10 points and six assists in just 25 minutes of work would indicate. Keeping him out of foul trouble will be crucial for NU this season.

3. Walker is Nebraska’s glue guy

Walker’s final numbers were solid on their own. But how they came in making play after play when his team needed it the most made his performance even more impressive.

The graduate junior had eight points, four rebounds, and two blocks in the second half. No stretch was more important than when Colorado went on its 17-2 run and trimmed NU’s lead down to 12.

From subbing in at the 9:37 mark until checking out with 3:47 left to play, Walker posted six points, three rebounds, and a blocked shot. He scored Nebraska’s only six points over a nearly 10-minute stretch.

The connection between Walker and Verge in the pick-and-roll game has also been a valuable addition to the Huskers’ offense. Three of Verge’s six assists were to Walker.

The Key

Nebraska couldn’t have asked for much more from a charity exhibition than what it got in Sunday’s win over Colorado.

There were stretches where, as Hoiberg put it, the Huskers played “beautiful basketball” and looked like the perfect picture of what their offense could be.

There were also other points where things didn’t go NU’s way at all, and the team had to face and overcome some real in-game adversity.

When the Buffaloes cut a 27-point lead down to 12, Hoiberg said his team “didn’t handle it great” and went away from “making the simple plays” and correct decisions.

Rather than let CU’s rally turn into a total disaster, though, Nebraska’s leaders stepped up and got the game under control. Walker was clutch down the stretch, and Bryce McGowens scored five of his 15 points in the final five minutes.

Trey McGowens forced a key turnover with an all-out effort play, which led to a layup by Verge that pushed the lead to 17 with 1:32 left and sealed the win.

To face some real adversity and still walk away with a 15-point victory was an ideal learning experience and valuable confidence boost for the Huskers.


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