LINCOLN — The student section decided Justin Costello should be next.
The walk-on guard from Elkhorn South was fresh off the bench, hadn’t as much as sniffed the court all evening, but when he caught a pass on the wing late in the second half, the students screamed.
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So Costello obliged and buried Nebraska’s 15th 3-pointer of the night. It gave the Huskers a 69-point lead over Mississippi Valley State, and the lead would stay there for the final minutes for the second-largest win in program history, 106-37.
Nebraska dismantled the Delta Devils, holding MVSU to 19 percent shooting and forcing 19 turnovers. Nebraska, meanwhile, hit 38 shots on 69 attempts, with an assist on 23 of those makes. Nebraska came out gunning, starting the season off with a 25-footer from James Palmer that didn’t even move the net. The Huskers hit the 50-point mark in just 18 minutes of game play. Senior guard Glynn Watson led Nebraska with 19 points on 10 shots and three assists. Starters sat most of the second half.
But although the Huskers scored more than 100 points for the first time in a home opener since 1992, coach Tim Miles and his team were all business postgame. The victory improved Nebraska’s home winning streak to 13, tied for longest in the Pinnacle Bank Arena era.
But there’s still room to grow, Watson said. It’s a long season.
“That wasn’t a good team, so we’re just gonna keep working each and every day,” said the senior point guard.
Miles said he was pleased with how his team played start to finish. But not even the barrage of 3s and above-50 percent shooting could assuage Miles’ worries about Nebraska’s ability to make shots.
“We’re day by day,” he said. “I like the way we shoot it. I’ve seen us do it in practice. I think it’s gonna be one of those things where we’ll have tough nights and good nights.”
Palmer, who finished with 17 points and five assists, said there are plenty of things to work on between now and the next game Sunday afternoon at home against Southeastern Louisiana.
“We just gotta work on everything,” he said. “That was a good win for us. We still gotta work on our overall game.”
Nebraska (1-0) jumped out to a 20-4 lead after Watson made a Delta Devil nearly fall over and hit a step-back 3. After that, just as in the team’s exhibition game, Miles went to the bench and used 10 players in the first 10 minutes. Sophomore guard Nana Akenten made five of his 11 3-point attempts and finished with 18 points off the bench. Thorir Thorbjarnarson scored nine, and freshman Brady Heiman from Platteview added nine points and 13 rebounds.
“I thought Brady Heiman did a very nice job,” Miles said. “It was good for (Akenten) to get some reps up and down the floor, and you can see why we like him.”
From here, Miles won’t nitpick the film. He’ll dissect hustle and how his team played when it got tired. The win was the Huskers’ biggest since a 74-point victory over Crete in 1907. But it doesn’t satisfy the goal this season, which is why after the game, players stoically walked out of the locker room scrolling on their phones.
Tuesday was a good start. But one of the largest wins in school history isn’t what they’re after.
“Sometimes I feel like they’re casual, and that bothers me. I’m not casual,” Miles said. “That’s a little bit them, but I think that it’s on to the next, and we’re happy to play well, get the win, and now we’re ready to go get Southeastern Louisiana.”
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6--6, 218 | Sophomore | Guard | Bolingbrook, Ill.
Akenten clocked just 21 minutes his freshman year and shot 2 for 9 from the floor, eight of those nine shots coming from behind the arc. Akenten said he was “humbled” by last season, and he’ll get a shot this year to stay on the floor for much, much longer than 21 minutes.
6--1, 184 | Sophomore | Guard | Raleigh, N.C.
Nebraska’s fifth starter, Allen will have plenty of opportunity to prove he deserves serious playing time. Allen is Nebraska’s best bet for a sharp-shooter, and the Huskers’ season may depend on Allen’s ability to stretch the floor and give Nebraska a fifth weapon to add to the “Fab Four.”
6--8, 250 | Senior | Forward | Gothenburg, Neb.
Borchardt cut some weight and it proved beneficial in the closed scrimmage against Iowa State. He hit four of his five shots filling in for Isaiah Roby while he was in foul trouble. That’ll be Borchardt’s main role this year — filling in for Roby and Isaac Copeland when they’re in foul trouble or need a rest.
KENT SIEVERS/THE WORLD-HERALD
6-4, 180 | Junior | Guard | Orange, N.J.
Burke is a transfer from Robert Morris who has to sit out this season. He’s on deck to be Nebraska’s next star.
6-9, 225 | Senior | Forward | Raleigh, N.C.
A key cog in the Nebraska machine, Copeland will be NU’s stretch-four. He’s playing better than any time in his career, Tim Miles said. Copeland was honorable mention All-Big Ten last season with 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
6-1, 200 | Freshman | Guard | Omaha
Costello is a walk-on from Omaha and won the Class B state title in 2017 with Elkhorn South. He averaged 18.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
6-6, 215 | Freshman | Forward | St. Louis, Mo.
Davis is out this season after tearing his Achilles during fall practice.
6-6, 205 | Freshman | Guard | Frederick, Md.
Harris is the true freshman most likely to immediately contribute this season. Harris can defend positions one through four. His jumper will determine how much he see’s the floor.
6-10, 215 | Freshman | Forward | Springfield, Neb.
Heiman is Nebraska’s one in-state scholarship freshman. He’s Nebraska’s first in-state high school enrollee since 2001. As a four-year starter at Platteview, Heiman scored 1,315 points, racked up 883 rebounds and blocked 523 shots.
6-6, 207 | Senior | Guard | Upper Marlboro, Md.
Nebraska’s best player in years, Palmer is a returning All-Big Ten first-team guard. The senior sniffed the NBA but decided to return for one more year. He averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists as a junior.
6-9, 230 pounds | Junior | Forward | Dixon, Illinois
Roby is a key cog in Nebraska's machine. The junior recorded a double double in Nebraska's exhibition and could do that consistently this season for the Huskers. The owner of a 7-foot-1 wingspan, he’s a potential All-Big Ten player.
6-6, 206 | Sophomore | Guard | Reykjavik, Iceland
Thorbjarnarson appeared in nine games as a freshman and was 3 for 7 from the floor. He’ll likely play cleanup duty this year and will look to contribute more as a junior and senior.
6-3, 194 | Junior | Guard | Omaha
Trueblood has appeared in 17 games in his two seasons on the team. The backup point guard won’t be a huge factor this season.
6-3, 180 | Senior | Guard | Bellwood, Ill.
The final of the "Fab Four," Watson is a four-year starter and Tim Miles’ eyes and ears on the court. Watson’s production dropped a bit as a junior, averaging 10.5 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists per game. Miles is hoping Watson has a year more like his sophomore season, when he scored 13 a game and shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.