Following their shocking 70-62 home loss to the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs on Sunday the Nebraska Cornhuskers needed to get their season back on track. With the Southern Jaguars in town for the team’s final non-conference game, Tim Miles’ squad was looking to turn things around after a difficult 1-6 stretch.
While it wasn’t pretty, nor as easy as most would have expected, the Huskers pulled out a hard fought 81-76 win behind an impressive 18 point performance from freshman Jeriah Horne. While a win over a 4-8 SWAC team isn’t much of an indicator of where this Nebraska team is, the discovery of a dynamic offensive sparkplug in Horne could be pivotal as Big Ten play begins.
Horne played nine minutes in Nebraska’s last five games. But his role on the roster certainly increased as he lifted his team’s struggling offense in 18 minutes off the bench. The 6-foot-7 native of Overland Park, Missouri had scored only 14 points on the season up to Tuesday night. With five points at halftime and a 13 point offensive explosion in the second half, Miles may now have the missing piece vital to his team’s success.
Yes, it was one game against an inferior opponent. But Horne showed an ability to score inside, shoot the mid-range jumper and hit the three. He was 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-6 from the three point line. He also added four rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. It was a complete game effort for Horne, and one that the Huskers will look for moving forward as they open conference play against Indiana on Dec. 28.
“I just got in a rhythm and kept it going, I guess,” Horne told reporters after the game. “I trusted my teammates and they found me for open shots. My teammates helped me all the way. They just told me to be patient, trust the process and eventually I’d get my chance.”
The Huskers 81 points against Southern was their largest offensive output since the team’s season opening 83-61 win over Sacramento State. If Horne can build on his breakout performance the Huskers will have a fourth scoring option alongside Tai Webster (17.0 points per game), Glynn Watson Jr. (12.6 points per game) and Ed Morrow Jr. (10.3 points per game).
It wasn’t just that Horne scored against Southern. It was when he scored, down the stretch in a pivotal game, that was so impressive. His three pointer with 10:55 left broke a tie. Another three pointer with 6:51 left and a two point bucket with 5:38 left allowed the Huskers to maintain a lead while the Jaguars scored on six straight possessions.
“That’s a hard question to answer,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said when asked by reporters whether his team would have pulled out the win without Horne’s production. “But we played him and he came through. I credit his patience. I’ve still got to figure out where he fits into the rotation.”
The Huskers are a long way from reaching their potential. Their defense was subpar against Southern and their offense will need to continue to improve. But with a new weapon emerging in Horne, fans in Lincoln have hope that the Cornhuskers can compete in the Big Ten.