Nebraska basketball beat Washington State 82-71 in the first game of the Cayman Islands Classic off the back of a second half which saw Nebraska go 7-8 from the field in the first 11 minutes.
The game started off in a less-than-ideal way for Nebraska, as it missed its first two shots and turned the ball over before Washington State hit a 3-pointer. However, this didn’t give way to a Washington State run, but rather a close game which was within three points either way until there was 12 minutes left in the first half. Washington State found itselfs up 31-25, but Nebraska again did not let this run turn into a rout like it did against UC Riverside.
One of the biggest stories of the first half was freshman forward Kevin Cross. Cross was quiet during the game against Southern, scoring eight points but only securing one rebound. Cross was also not called upon during overtime, in lieu of freshman forward Yvan Ouedraogo. This was partly surprising because in Nebraska’s overtime game against Southern Utah, Cross played the entirety of the extra period.
Coming into the game four minutes into the first half, Cross was able to score nine points, including a 3-pointer, and grab five defensive rebounds.
These boards helped to keep the rebound differential from getting out of control. At the end of the first half, Washington State had 25 rebounds to Nebraska’s 17. This was significantly improved from Nebraska’s game against Southern where Southern was able to grab 30 rebounds in the first half to Nebraska’s 13. By the end of the game, Nebraska had brought the rebound differential to three, with Washington State grabbing 44 to Nebraska’s 41. Washington State, however, had significantly more offensive rebounds at 15 to Nebraska’s seven.
Much of the reason why Washington State was unable to gain more from the game was due to its inability to shoot the 3-pointer effectively. Off of 27 attempts, it only made six.
Senior guard Haanif Cheatham, who is Nebraska’s best defensive player according to box plus/minus, had one of his best games of the season against Washington State. His seven points and three rebounds by the end of the first half were significantly eclipsed in the second. By the end of the game, Cheatham had a team-high 19 points along with six rebounds.
The second half never threatened to be close. Nebraska jumped out to a seven-point lead early and never let go. At one point, the lead was at 16 with the score 69-53. One of the biggest factors for this was Nebraska’s 3-point shooting percentage throughout the game. Nebraska shot 50 percent from beyond the arc,, which is slightly worse than the Huskers’ performance against Southern, but significantly better than the Huskers’ season average.
Junior guard Jervay Green had one of his best scoring games in a Nebraska uniform against Washington State. Quiet in the first half, Green exploded for 14 points in the second half, including a fantastic 30-footer which Green shot just as confidently as he would a layup.
It would seem that, with such a strong showing against Washington State, many of Nebraska’s early-season 3-point woes are starting to fade away. Something which isn’t fading, though, is Nebraska’s free-throw percentage, which continues to be low at 52 percent.
One of the stranger moments in the game came near the end when sophomore guard Cam Mack was given a technical for taunting. Mack was trying to shake hands with his teammates while on the free-throw line, but none of them went over. So, the referee saw this as an offense.
Nebraska plays George Mason on Tuesday with a 6:30 p.m. tip. George Mason is currently 5-1 on the season and may represent a stiff challenge for Nebraska before its game against Georgia Tech next week.