LINCOLN, Neb. — It took four tries for Isaac Copeland to have the kind of game he was expected to play for Nebraska this season, scoring 30 points to lead the Huskers to a 92-70 win over North Dakota Sunday.
The Georgetown transfer, who averaged just 7 points per game in Nebraska’s first three contests, made 12 of 14 shots, including 3 of 4 three pointers, and pulled down eight rebounds while triggering the early first half spurt that put Nebraska up for most of the game.
Copeland was relieved to have his first big game at Nebraska.
“It felt good,” he said. “I have a good support system around me. My dad calls pretty much daily to let me know to keep working, stay positive and this is eventually is going to happen. I didn’t expect it to be 30 points. But I’ll take it.”
Nebraska (3-1) hit six of its first nine shots, taking a 15-5 lead on Copeland’s layup with 15:13 left in the first half. The Huskers led by as many as 18 in the first half in which they hit 61 percent of their shots.
North Dakota (2-2) turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and made just 12 baskets to fall behind 49-32.
The Fighting Hawks took advantage of Nebraska’s cold shooting to open the second half to cut the Husker lead to 53-46 on a Cortez Seales jumper with 14:07 remaining. Nebraska used a 12-2 run capped by an Anton Gill 3-pointer to go up 75-55 with 8:57 remaining.
“The second half we cut it to 10, but Conner (Avants) picks two quick fouls and that kind of deflated our rhythm a little bit,” said North Dakota coach Brian Jones. “Some of the things we tried to take away we did, some of the things we needed to take away we did not. … I give them a lot of credit. They have not shot the ball even remotely or nearly as well as they had today.”
Nebraska held Geno Crandall, who came into the game averaging 28 points per game, to just two free throws in the first half. Crandall, who finished with 13 points, got his first field goal with 12:50 remaining in the game.
“Evan Taylor did a tremendous job on Crandall in the first half,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. “I don’t think people realize how tough he is to guard one-on-one. We had some guys helping him too, to shrink the floor. But Evan really did a great job on him. You can’t keep him forever. He still got 13.”
Marlon Stewart led North Dakota with 20 points. Avants had 16 points and Dale Jones had 11 points for the Fighting Hawks.
Gill had a career-high 16 points, Glynn Watson, Jr. had 13 points and Isaiah Roby had 11 points for Nebraska.
North Dakota: This is the fifth-straight season the Fighting Hawks have played a Big Ten opponent and are now 0-7 all-time against the league since moving to NCAA Division 1 in the 2008-2009 season.
Nebraska: The Huskers struggled shooting through the first three games, making just 36 percent overall and only 27 percent from 3-point range. The Huskers finished at 53 percent on Sunday.
Miles on Copeland, who had back surgery and missed last season and Gill, who had knee surgery last year.
“I’m just so happy for them. Two guys go through major surgery, back surgery and the injury that Anton went down and see them just really explode, I’m just so happy for them. I know what a relief it is, how exciting it is for them and they deserve it. They’re worked every day, they’ve struggled without any groaning and griping. They’ve stayed with it … I’m really happy for those guys to bust out.”
North Dakota will return to Grand Forks where it hosts Northland College in its home opener Tuesday.
Nebraska travels to Orlando where it will meet Central Florida in the first of its three games in the Advocare Invitational Thursday.