LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska coach Tim Miles knows that playing games during winter break can be a struggle, learning that lesson a couple of years ago when the Cornhuskers lost to Samford on Dec. 20.
No. 25 Nebraska avoided another holiday slip-up on Saturday, defeating Cal State Fullerton 86-62 behind 23 points from James Palmer Jr. and 10 points and 10 assists from Glynn Watson Jr.
“Every team that played today has got the same thing going on, usually, except for those dudes in Hawaii, they’ve got a good thing going on,” Miles said of the winter-break games. “I want to see us go out, play well, build a lead, win the game and nobody gets hurt. I think that happened.”
The Huskers knew they’d have to bring some extra energy. Both the players and their coach said the crowd of 15,000 that filled Pinnacle Bank Arena contributed to the victory.
“The Husker fans are unreal,” Miles said. “I told our guys at halftime: ‘There’s not a team in the country getting 15,000 fans tonight unless it’s Kentucky-Duke or something like that. This is ridiculous. Let’s perform well for them.’ We knew it was going to be a good crowd. It was awesome to be a part of.”
Nebraska (10-2) won its 18th straight home game, a streak dating to last season.
Isaiah Roby had a career-high 20 points for the Cornhuskers while Isaac Copeland added 12.
Kyle Allman Jr. had 14 of his 16 points in the second half to lead Cal State Fullerton. Khalil Ahmad had 12 points and Austen Awosika had 10 points.
The Cornhuskers used a 10-2 run to go up 27-16 on Palmer’s turnaround in the lane with 5:57 left in the first half. Cal State Fullerton (3-9) never got closer than seven in the final 25 minutes.
Nebraska went up 51-31 on Thomas Allen’s jumper with 15:27 remaining. The Titans cut the lead to 12 on Allman’s free throws with 8:53 left.
But Palmer’s fourth 3-pointer and two free throws by Watson started an 11-2 Nebraska run that put the game out of reach — and sent the Huskers home for Christmas.
“We started off slow, but we picked it up and came out with the win, then we can go home,” Watson said “We ain’t played in a week or so. Everything went good.”
The Titans struggled from the outside against Nebraska’s man-to-man and zone defenses, making just 4 of its 19 3-point attempts. Nebraska capitalized on the foul line, converting 24 of 38 to Cal State Fullerton’s 8 of 16.
Titans coach Dedrique Taylor said his team did some good things, but Nebraska and the crowd were too much to overcome.
“We battled on the glass,” he said. “I thought we did what we needed to do rebounding. That shows that we can rebound. I thought we executed some actions down the stretch there, but again being in this type of atmosphere, it’s a heck of a learning experience and we played a really good ballclub and they showed us why they’re good.”
Nebraska: Miles became third winningest coach in Nebraska history. He now has 107, passing Moe Iba, who won 106 games from 1981-86. Danny Nee (1987-2000) tops the list with 254, one more than Joe Cipriano (1964-80)
Cal State Fullerton: Nebraska was the first ranked team the Titans have played this season. But Cal State Fullerton’s strength of schedule is ranked No. 17 by KenPom, largely because the Titans have played nine of their 11 games on the road or at neutral sites.
Nebraska: Hosts Southwest Minnesota St., the Division II school where Miles coached from 1998-2001 on Saturday in its final nonconference game of the season.
Cal State Fullerton: Hosts Portland on Saturday in what will be just its fourth home game of the season. The Titans will play 11 of their first 15 games away from Fullerton.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25