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Huskers three-headed monster prepare for Big Ten play

Watson Jr., Palmer Jr., and Copeland look to succeed in conference play in hopes of reaching the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Basketball: Nebraska at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Nebraska Cornhuskers sit at 10-5 on the season, including their 1-1 record in conference play, with a huge win against 14th ranked Minnesota (unranked now) at home. Nebraska will now prepare for a road trip against Northwestern to start January, the heart of Big Ten play, and for whatever comes next for Tim Miles.

And no players may be more important than the trio of potential All-Big Ten players for Nebraska in Glynn Watson Jr., James Palmer Jr., and Isaac Copeland.

Watson Jr., arguably the best player out of the trio, is averaging 12.8 points-per-game and 1.9 steals-per-game, tying for second in the Big Ten. Watson has been Nebraska’s captain and leader all season, and often like his first two seasons, finds a way to come up big when it matters.

“Me and Anton [Gill] being seniors, but we have guys like Glynn [Watson Jr.], who’s been in the program and been playing for a long time so he might as well be a senior,” said Evan Taylor, Nebraska’s starting shooting guard and co-captain.

Watson scored 29 points, gathered nine rebounds, and pick-pocketed Minnesota’s guards three times. Against Iowa last year Watson scored 34 points in Nebraska’s win in triple overtime, but eventually fouled out with two minutes to go. When Watson plays exceedingly well, Nebraska could beat most teams in the Big Ten.

When Nebraska landed former four-star recruit James Palmer Jr. from Miami, not many fans thought Palmer would produce like he has been, but head coach Tim Miles knew all along.

“In transferring from Miami, I was looking for a school that will let me play my game,” he said. “I have a trust in Coach Miles and I could see he has the utmost trust in me, through good or bad,” said Palmer on the impact Tim Miles had on his decision.

James Palmer has been electric so far for Nebraska, averaging 15.2 points-per-game and 3.9 rebounds-per-game. He has started every game this season and isn’t afraid to take the clutch shot in the final minutes of the game. Against Kansas, Palmer pulled up on Devonte Graham Jr., Kansas’s star point guard, behind the arc and nailed a three with 2:33 left on the clock. What probably wasn’t the best shot to take, turned into a huge momentum shift in the game that almost led to a Nebraska victory.

James Palmer Jr. presence in Nebraska’s starting lineup has led them to a couple of wins this year, but also a confidence boost for the entire team when facing tougher opponents.

Isaac Copeland came into Nebraska hurt with a back injury and didn’t know if the NCAA would approve of his medical redshirt, which would allow him to play at the beginning of the 2017-’18. Copeland’s application got approved by the NCAA, and Tim Miles immediately placed him in the starting lineup.

Copeland started the season cold, failing to score in double digits his first three games. He also hadn’t been making smart decisions and shot under 22 percent from the field in two out of the three games. Then Copeland faced North Dakota, and after that game everyone knew that he would eventually live up to his former five-star recruitment expectations. He scored 30 points, while grabbing nine rebounds and going three-for-four from the three point line.

“I am so happy for them...[t]hey deserve it. They have worked every day. They have struggled without any groaning and griping and they just stayed with it. Hopefully this is that start of the beginning,” said Tim Miles on Copeland and Anton Gill’s performances against North Dakota.

Copeland has scored in double digits eight out of his eleven last games, and now leads the team in rebounds, averaging 6.6 rebounds-per-game. If Copeland can play consistently well, Watson and Palmer won’t have to worry as much about taking charge in a game.

The Huskers after Stetson play a tough stretch of Big Ten opponents, playing at Northwestern and at Purdue, then home against Wisconsin. All three of those teams made the NCAA tournament last year, and will need all three players from their trio to win those games.