In the evening game on this Big Ten Saturday, the Nebraska Cornhuskers were able to outlast Iowa for essentially the full 40 minutes. With the victory, the Huskers are now 7-4 in the conference, moving ahead of Michigan for fourth in the standings. Though the Hawkeyes had a few runs in the second half, they were unable to attain a lead throughout the final 20 minutes.
On the one hand, a win over Iowa may not seem impressive given the Hawkeyes’ position in the Big Ten. However, while the Huskers were expected to win this game, they were able to overcome some obstacles. Though Nebraska held a double digit lead at halftime, Iowa was able to trim that deficit to two early in the second half. Never the less, the Huskers regrouped whenever the Hawkeyes threw a haymaker. The end result saw Nebraska winning by 14 points.
What We Learned
1. How did Miami let James Palmer Jr. out of their grasp?
Palmer Jr. was named the co-Big Ten Player of the Week last Monday after scoring 24 and 19 points in Nebraska’s two games the week prior. On that same Monday, Palmer Jr. dropped in 34 points in a loss to Ohio State. He followed that up with a 19 point performance against Rutgers this week too.
Tonight, Palmer Jr. continued his stretch of stellar play. The 6-foot-6 guard poured in 28 points against Iowa, shooting 58 percent in the process. Given the string of successful play he has had over the last week, he may be in line for another Big Ten Player of the Week honor.
However, one has to wonder how Palmer Jr. slipped through the fingers of Miami. The junior averaged only about 12 minutes per game in his two seasons at Miami in 2014-’15 and 2015-’16. Though the Hurricanes made the NCAA Tournament in the latter of those two years, Palmer Jr. choose to transfer to Lincoln. The real question for me is why Miami did not make a bigger effort to keep him when he began considering a transfer.
Either way, Nebraska benefits from it in the end. The combination of their two transfers, Palmer Jr. and Isaac Copeland, have proven to be the two most valuable players on the roster. In fact, Palmer Jr. warrants some All-Big Ten consideration.
2. Keep your on eye on Iowa in the coming years
The Hawkeyes now sit at 2-8 in the Big Ten after this loss to Nebraska. That mark has them tied for 13th in the conference standings. While expectations were not incredibly high to begin with, only two conference wins has to be somewhat disheartening. However, fear not if you are a Hawkeyes fan as they will not be away for long.
Barring some sort of incredible run in the conference tournament, the Hawkeyes seem dead in the water now. Yet, you have to be extremely excited for the team’s future. They only have two seniors on their roster and their two best players are only sophomores. Both Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon scored over 20 points in the loss to the Huskers.
Cook dropped in 24 points along with 10 rebounds, on 61 percent shooting no less. As for Bohannon, he also scored 24 points with seven assists on 53 percent shooting. Yet, that was not even close to enough to score a conference win.
Iowa has plenty of issues this season, they lack a complete team outside of Cook and Bohannon. The Hawkeyes are also dismal defensively, allowing 98 points to Nebraska in this game. However, both sophomores, along with a young supporting cast leads me to believe that Iowa will be back next season.
3. Okay, I am now willing to admit it, Nebraska can sneak into the NCAA Tournament field
Listen, I was skeptical. All the factors considered, I thought Nebraska’s success was somewhat of a fluke. I mean, a weak Big Ten, some wins against teams that were better than them. I was not ready to believe that the Huskers could hang around in the conference, until tonight. Their win over Michigan pushed me closer, but that was balanced out with their loss to Ohio State on Monday.
Sure, they were favored to beat Iowa in the first place, but the Huskers had to overcome some obstacles in order to get the win. In the end, they controlled every aspect of the game. Nebraska shot over 55 percent from both the field and from three-point range. They also dominated the rebounding battle and they got to the free throw line at a high and efficient rate.
All in all, I am now convinced that Nebraska can make the NCAA Tournament field. It may have to be as an at-large bid, but Tim Miles has worked miracles with this team before.
Iowa runs into some winnable games this week as they play Minnesota and Penn State. Next week has Nebraska heading to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers on Monday. The Huskers have hit a very manageable path the rest of their Big Ten season. If they can continue to play at a high level, they will only continue to solidify their hopes for postseason play.