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Watson lifts Nebraska over No. 14 Minnesota 78-64

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Glynn Watson Jr. was coming off a miserable game, with six points on 2-of-11 shooting in a loss to No. 3 Michigan State. He got back on track Tuesday night.

Watson scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half and Nebraska opened up a 16-point lead early in the second half en route to a 78-68 win over No. 14 Minnesota.

“This is all-conference Glynn, right?,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “He did a great job all night. … He was really determined the whole day and yesterday. I don’t think he felt good watching tape of Michigan State. It wasn’t anything new or different. It was just Glynn.”

Watson scored seven straight points to open the second half, and Duby Okeke’s dunk put Nebraska (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) up 48-32 with 15:35 left.

Minnesota (8-2, 1-1) made two of its first 10 shots in the half and struggled against the Huskers’ switching man-to-man defense.

Minnesota cut the lead to 67-53 after two free throws by Nate Mason with 4:37 left, but James Palmer Jr.’s 3 put Nebraska up by 17.

The Gophers forced a pair of turnovers, hit three 3-pointers in the final three minutes, and Reggie Lynch’s dunk with 1:01 left cut the lead to 72-64. Watson and Isaac Copeland made 6 of 8 free throws in the final minute to seal it.

“They just played better than we did and when we need to get stops, we couldn’t,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “Offensively, obviously, we didn’t have it going. If you don’t have it going offensively, you’ve got to get stops and get out on the break. We did not do that. Credit to them.”

Watson downplayed his scoring, crediting the win to good team play, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

“It felt good,” Watson said. “We just executed our stuff and played good defense. That’s what we need to start doing. We got a good win.”

Using an aggressive, double-teaming defense, the Huskers held Big Ten scoring leader Jordan Murphy to 10 points, 11 below his season average, and held high-scoring Minnesota 21 points below its season average.

“I thought we played really hard tonight, too,” Miles said. “You cannot let them get going inside or they’ll brutalize you. I thought our guys did a really, really good job.”

Mason led Minnesota with 20 points, and Amir Coffey had 17 points.

Copeland finished with 12 points for Nebraska and Palmer had 11 points.

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota missed six shots to open both halves. The Gophers hit just 32 percent of their shots Tuesday. They entered averaging 49 percent shooting.

Nebraska, an up-and-down shooting team, hit 47 percent of its shots, 57 percent in the second half. The Huskers shot just 27 percent in their 86-57 loss at Michigan State on Sunday.

UP NEXT

Nebraska travels to Omaha on Saturday to meet intrastate rival Creighton, which dropped out of the AP Top 25 after being ranked for one week.

Minnesota is at Arkansas on Saturday to play its second road contest and third game of the week.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Marquette lands Nebraska transfer Morrow

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Ed Morrow, Jr. decided to leave his hometown when he announced he was leaving Nebraska. His destination has him closer to the city where he grew up.

The 6-foot-7 forward will transfer to Marquette, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

Morrow, a product of Chicago’s Simeon High School (same as Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker), averaged 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game last season for Tim Miles’ Huskers, but decided to transfer reportedly because of a desire to play more at power forward and on the perimeter. Morrow was born in Lincoln, Neb. and both his parents are former Husker student-athletes.

With the Golden Eagles, Morrow shouldn’t have any issue avoiding the center position. Marquette has plenty of size – both currently on the roster and in its incoming recruiting class – that should allow him to play the positions he’s looking for. Marquette went 19-13 last year with a first-round NCAA tournament exit to eventual Final Four participant South Carolina.

After sitting out this upcoming season, Morrow will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Nebraska loses forward Michael Jacobson to transfer

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Nebraska is losing another starter to transfer as forward Michael Jacobson will play elsewhere next season, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore will have two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out a season due to NCAA transfer regulations. Jacobson started all 31 games last season and averaged 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while playing 24.0 minutes per game.

“After much deliberation, I have made the decision to transfer,” Jacobson said in the release. “This was a very difficult decision for me, but I feel it is necessary at this time. I want to thank the Nebraska fans for their incredible support. I also want to say thank you to Coach Miles and his staff, my teammates and the Athletics Department. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given here at Nebraska.”

“I support Michael in his decision to transfer,” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said in the release. “Although I am disappointed, we’ve appreciated his hard work in our program over the last two seasons. Michael and I have had numerous discussions regarding his role and what position he would be playing for us in the future. After a lot of thought, Michael decided to find a new school.  I understand and respect his decision.”

Nebraska has lost Jacobson and forward Ed Morrow Jr. to transfer this offseason as it will be tough for the Huskers to replace that much experience in the front court.

Nebraska AD tweets Miles will return

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The season came to an end for Nebraska on Wednesday, but Tim Miles’ immediate future with the program looked settled.

He is coming back for another season.

Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst tweeted, “Look forward to the next season of (Nebraska) basketball under (Miles’) leadership…the future is bright!”

Miles’ job security was in question with a third-straight losing season – capped by their opening-round Big Ten tournament loss Tuesday to Penn State – and fourth in his five seasons in Lincoln. After winning their first three games to start Big Ten play, the Huskers proceeded to lose seven of their next eight and then finish the year on a five-game losing streak.

Nebraska’s season was dealt a difficult blow before it even started when Andrew White decided to utilize the graduate transfer rule and bolt to Syracuse, where he’s averaging 17.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. With White, Nebraska would have had an intriguing roster, but without him, it liked the punch and firepower to make a dent even in a down Big Ten.

Before Nebraska, Miles made his mark at Colorado State, where his teams got better every year of his tenure, going from seven wins in his first year to 20 and an NCAA tournament berth in his fifth. It’s been nearly the reverse at Nebraska for Miles after getting the team into the NCAA tournament in his second year, but following that up three sub-.500 seasons in a row.

Certainly, the job in Lincoln is no easy one without a deep natural recruiting base at a school that prioritizes football and in a league that has some of the country’s top programs. Still, the Huskers have invested in basketball in recent years, most notably Pinnacle Bank Arena, which opened in 2013 with a price tag north of $184 million, even though they ranked 11th in the Big Ten in basketball spending, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

The bottom line is that the Nebraska job is a tough one, and Miles has previously shown he has been able to tame it with that NCAA tournament appearance. Three-straight losing seasons makes that March seem like quite a long time ago, however. There’s little doubt that Miles can coach, but building and sustaining momentum is no easy task at Nebraska. Miles has coached Nebraska to half of their NCAA tournament berths in the last 20 years. 

He’ll will be back for another year, but you can bet he’ll be on every hot seat list to start next season. Putting the program back on an upward trajectory will be a must.

Team of the Week: Nebraska Cornhuskers

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Heading into the start of Big Ten play, Nebraska was in a bad way.

They had lost six of their last eight games, included in that group a home loss to Gardner-Webb. It was bad enough for Tim Miles that Nebraska’s notoriously gregarious head coach instituted a self-imposed twitter ban … on himself.

And that was before they found out they would be playing the rest of the season without Anton Gill.

But then they opened up conference play by going into Assembly Hall and knocking off Indiana. It wasn’t a fluke, either. The Huskers earned that win by outplaying the Hoosiers. They followed that up by going into College Park on Sunday and knocking off Maryland. That wasn’t a regular win, either, as Nebraska erased a 13-point deficit in the final six minutes and closed the game on a 14-0 run.

What that means if you’re scoring at home is that Nebraska, who is now 9-6 on the season, is currently sitting at the top of the Big Ten standings at 2-0 with a pair of road wins on their résumé.

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Oregon: The Ducks had themselves quite the week, beating No. 2 UCLA on a buzzer-beater before knocking off No. 22 USC in blowout fashion. Not only did they hand both of those programs their first loss of the season, but Oregon also got their all-american Dillon Brooks back playing like an all-american.
  • Virginia Tech: The Hokies made a statement of their own this week, giving No. 5 Duke a beatdown in Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon. Buzz Williams has a good team this season, one that hasn’t gotten the credit for how good they’ve been. This is the kind of win that will make people take notice.
  • Villanova: At this point, Villanova pretty much has to be considered the favorite to repeat as national champions, right? On Saturday, they went into Omaha in one of the loudest buildings in college basketball and knocked off a top ten Creighton team. The Wildcats never seemed to get rattled if it wasn’t Josh Hart making the big plays, it was Jalen Brunson scoring 11 straight points. This team isn’t perfect, but I don’t know if there is a team in college basketball that’s closer than them.
  • Arizona: The Wildcats, who are still playing without the services of Allonzo Trier 15 games into the season, handled their first road trip of the Pac-12 season flawlessly, dispatching both Cal and Stanford in fairly pedestrian fashion. Arizona is not on the same level as Oregon or UCLA in the Pac-12 at this point, but given everything that they’ve dealt with this season, I’m not sure there’s been a more impressive team performance than what Sean Miller’s club has done.
  • Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets were supposed to finish at the bottom of the ACC this season. They still might do just that. But that won’t change the fact that, on Saturday, Georgia Tech upset No. 9 North Carolina in their ACC opener.

Nebraska snaps No. 16 Indiana’s 26-game home court winning streak

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Glynn Watson Jr. scored 26 points and added four assists and five steals as Nebraska went into Assembly Hall and stunned No. 16 Indiana, 87-83.

This is just a massive win for Nebraska and Tim Miles, as the Huskers had entered this game losing six of their last eight games – including falling at home to Gardner-Webb – which had created a negative enough atmosphere around the program that the always-affable Miles had to take a twitter-hiatus.

While this isn’t enough to get Nebraska anywhere near the NCAA tournament conversation, it should relieve some of the pressure on Miles and his program while giving them a nice boost of confidence heading into Big Ten play. Remember, the year that Miles took Nebraska to the NCAA tournament the Huskers were just 19-13 on the season and needed a flurry of impressive league wins to get the bid.

So good for Nebraska.

But the bigger story here is Indiana, who saw their 26-game home-court winning streak get snapped. No team in college basketball has as big of a gap between their ceiling and their floor as the Hoosiers do, and there are a number of reasons for that.

For starters, they are a team that relies heavily on the three-ball to win games. When they’re hot, they can beat anyone in the country; ask Kansas and North Carolina. The problem comes when the Hoosiers aren’t making those threes. There are just so many question marks on the offensive side of the ball. They don’t have a point guard and they don’t have a go-to guy, meaning that when they can’t score in transition and when they can’t get an open look from three, their offense can struggle to get good looks. As good as Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby are, they are role players through and through.

And then there is Indiana’s defense, which hasn’t been a hallmark of the program since Crean arrived. The only year that he finished better than 38th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric is the year he had Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, and even then they were 21st.

That all somewhat belies the point here, because the issue is Tom Crean.

It’s not his coaching, mind you. I’d argue that the reason Indiana holds the wins that they currently hold have as much to do with Crean’s coaching as anything Indiana has done this season. Lest we forget that just eight months ago, Indiana was in the Sweet 16 after winning the Big Ten title outright by two games despite a horrid start to the 2015-16 season.

To me, the issue Indiana is dealing with is expectations. Last season’s performance combined with the hype the Hoosiers received when they won those early season games had Indiana getting ranked among the teams that are truly national title contenders. ESPN had the Hoosiers No. 1 in their Power Rankings during the second week of the season.

Indiana fans saw that.

They expected this team to pick up where last season’s team left off, even though the flaws in this roster were as clear as day; there is a Yogi Ferrell-sized hole in Indiana’s back court this season.

And that normally wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact Crean’s Big Ten title team played him off of the hot seat. He was a conference champion eight months ago, but 20 months ago Indiana fans were chanting “Tom Crean sucks” at his son’s basketball games.

Getting off the hot seat is nearly impossible to do in college basketball. Once the fan base turns, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re one bad season – or bad month, or bad game – away from being the worst thing to happen in the history of the program. And that seems to be the way this season is trending for Crean.

Because people see the two potential first round picks on the roster and the wins over Kansas and North Carolina and assume that a flawed roster should spend an entire season playing above their heads.

BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 19:  Tom Crean the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers gives instructions to his team during the game against the Delaware State Hornets at Assembly Hall on December 19, 2016 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Tom Crean (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)