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NU men’s hoops notes: Red-clad crowd gives NU advantage; turning offense into defense

December 17, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Whether it was the dudes with courtside seats swigging beers and hollering every time Nebraska made a play, or the guy in the Eric Piatkowski t-shirt, or anyone else wearing red Sunday night, the Sanford Pentagon turned into Pinnacle Bank Arena North for a few hours.

While the arena’s official capacity is listed at 3,250, the official attendance on the box score was 3,800. That included several hundred standing room-only fans who were still filing in as the game got under way.

“I was really happy to bring the team up to such a strong fan base, and the fans were just awesome,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “And I’m sure there’s a lot that weren’t Pinnacle Bank Arena people — they’re locals or Nebraskans or Iowans or whatever that love Nebraska, and it was really a lot of fun.”

While it will go down as a neutral site game, Nebraska fans outnumbered Oklahoma State fans more than 9-to-1. They also outnumbered the four people who showed up wearing Michigan State gear.

A “Go Big Red” chant drowned out Oklahoma State’s introduction video, and the crowd came alive late in the first half when Nebraska used an 11-2 run to take the lead into the locker room. Nebraska won 79-56.

“It was an exciting crowd. It basically sounded like a home game for us,” James Palmer said. “Nebraska fans really came out to support us.”

Would Miles consider bringing Nebraska back for another game in the future?

“I could see us coming back here,” he said.

Offense to defense: Normally, Nebraska wants to use its defense to create opportunities for its offense by forcing missed shots and turnovers.

Sunday, things worked in reverse as the Huskers sparked their defense by making a few shots.

While Oklahoma State never fully got into a rhythm offensively, Nebraska’s defense only took control after the offense saw the ball go through the basket a few times.

After shooting 45 percent in the first half, the Cowboys were held to 37 percent shooting in the second. That number was at 28 percent before OSU made its final four shots with the game already decided.

Nebraska, meanwhile, shot 48 percent in the second half, averaged 1.16 points per possession, and scored on exactly half of its 68 possessions in the game.

“We like to have it the other way around,” Isaac Copeland said. “But tonight we had to get some freedom on offense to turn it over to the defensive end.”

Winning away from home: While it did feel like a Nebraska home game, the victory will go down as a neutral site win over a power five conference opponent. That figures to be something the NCAA Tournament selection committee and its new NET rating system will like as the season wears on.

“You have to prove you can win away from home. And although this had a great environment to it, it’s still away from home,” Miles said. “I thought our guys did a good job because they performed better as the game went on — they were able to extend the whole thing, and I think that means a lot. They never let Oklahoma Stat back into the game.”

Nebraska is now 3-2 away from Lincoln, with wins at Clemson, against Missouri State in Kansas City and Sunday’s victory.

Personal pride: The win undoubtedly meant a little more for Miles, who was coaching in his home state about 150 miles from where he grew up.

The Doland, South Dakota, native had several friends and family at the game, including a few former teammates from the University of Mary who made the trip down from Bismark, North Dakota, and his parents Tip and Alyce. Miles said it was the first time his mother had been to a Husker game in a couple years.

“It was a lot of fun,” Miles said. “I’m sure (my mom) will tell me how loud it was. That’s a good problem to have, Ma.”

[ PHOTOS: The Huskers and the Cowboys renew an old rivalry in South Dakota ]

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