Huskers Top Rutgers, 60-54

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Piscataway, New Jersey -- (KNOP) Isaac Copeland’s 23 points led three Huskers in double figures while Glynn Watson Jr. made a trio of big plays in the final three minutes, as Nebraska picked up a crucial 60-54 win at Rutgers Wednesday evening.

Copeland hit 9-of-15 shots from the field, including a trio of 3-pointers, for a game-high 23 points while adding seven rebounds and two blocked shots as Nebraska improved to 15-8 on the season and 6-4 in the Big Ten.

While Copeland and James Palmer Jr., who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists keyed a decisive second-half run,
Watson hit two big baskets after the Scarlet Knights trimmed the Husker leads to two points.

Leading 50-48, Watson hit a circus shot to stretch NU’s lead to four. Rutgers (12-10, 2-7 Big Ten) whittled the lead back to 54-52 after a Candido Sa basket with 1:16 left and NU missed a 3-point attempt, but Copeland’s offensive rebound kept possession for the Huskers. NU would take advantage, as Watson’s driving layup gave the Huskers a 56-52 lead. On Rutgers’ next possession, Watson drew a change off Corey Sanders to give the Huskers the ball. Nebraska salted the game at the line, as Palmer went 4-of-4 from the charity stripe to give NU its second road win of the season.

Watson finished with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists, as Nebraska shot 39.6 percent but went 13-of-16 from the foul line and limited Rutgers to just 33.8 percent shooting.

Sanders led three Scarlet Knights with 14 points, while Geo Baker and Deshawn Freeman added 10 apiece.

The first half featured five ties and seven lead changes before the Huskers went to the locker room with a 27-25 halftime lead. Isaac Copeland and James Palmer Jr. had 11 points apiece for the Huskers who shot 39 percent in the opening 20 minutes and held the Scarlet Knights to 37.5 percent shooting.

Nebraska used a 6-0 run to erase an early 3-point deficit, getting a 3-pointer from Palmer Jr., a jumper from Glynn Watson Jr. and a Roby free throw to take a 14-11 lead at the 11:14 mark. Rutgers would respond, with five straight points, capped by a Deshawn Freeman 3-point play at the 8:23 mark of the half to take a 16-14 lead.

Rutgers led 22-19 before the Huskers used an 8-3 run to close the first half, as Copeland and Palmer combined for all eight of the Husker points. The Huskers run off six straight points, including a pair of Palmer baskets, to push the lead 25-22 with 1:03 left. Freeman, who had eight first-half points, tied it at 25 all on a 3-point play with 45 seconds left in the half, but two Copeland free throws on the ensuing possession sent the Huskers into the half with a small margin.

Nebraska trailed 32-31 before a Watson jumper triggered a 10-0 Husker run. Palmer hit a 3 on a well-designed play off the under 16 timeout before Copeland’s three from the top of the circle stretched the lead to 39-32 with 15:22 left and forced a Scarlet Knights timeout. Copland stretched the margin to nine after a follow up slam to put NU up 41-32 with 14:52 left.

Rutgers pulled within 44-42 on a Corey Sanders basket with 13:23 left, but a pair of Roby free throws and a Copeland 3-pointer with 7:21 left extended NU’s lead to 49-42. Rutgers would eventually get within 49-46 after Eugene Omoruyi’s putback with 5:36 left but the Huskers made the plays to hold off the Scarlet Knights down the stretch.

The Huskers return to Pinnacle Bank Arena Saturday night, as they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be carried on the IMG Husker Sports Network and televised on BTN. Saturday’s game is already a sellout, as it is the annual Coaches vs. Cancer game.