Glynn Watson Jr. scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, as Nebraska overcame a tough shooting night to pull out a 72-68 win over Eastern Illinois.
The Huskers (1-0) used an 18-5 second-half run, holding Eastern Illinois to one field goal over 8:28 to turn a six-point deficit into a 66-59 advantage after a pair of Evan Taylor free throws with 46 seconds remaining. Watson had five of his points in the run, as his three-pointer tied the game at 54 with 5:54 remaining.
The Huskers, who shot just 23-of-39 from the line, were unable to put the pesky Panther squad away until the final seconds. Eastern Illinois cut the deficit to 68-66 on a three-point play from D’Angelo Jackson with 12 seconds left before Watson hit four straight free throws to ice the game. The 6-foot junior finished with 21 points, including 8-of-10 from the foul line, and three assists to pace four Huskers scoring in double figures.
Senior guard Evan Taylor and junior transfer James Palmer Jr. had 12 points apiece, while sophomore Isaiah Roby stepped up with his first career double-double off the bench. Roby finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots in 26 minutes, setting personal bests in all three categories. His six blocks were the most by a Husker in nearly 13 years.
Nebraska shot just 38 percent from the field, but held EIU to 40 percent shooting, forced 16 turnovers and blocked nine shots.
Terrell Lewis led Eastern Illinois with 13 points, while Jujuan Starks added 12 in a losing effort.
Roby provided a spark for the Huskers in the first half, with seven points, five rebounds and five blocked shots in the first half alone, as Nebraska took a 34-33 lead to the locker room.
Nebraska hit six of its first eight shots from the floor to build a 14-9 lead after a three-point play from James Palmer Jr., who had 10 first-half points. Eastern Illinois responded with a 7-0 run of their own to regain the lead at 16-14 on a basket from Aboubacar Diallo with 12:36 left in the half. EIU led 23-19 after a three-pointer from Terrell Lewis built a 29-27 lead, before the Huskers ran off five straight points on a three-pointer from Thomas Allen and a jumper from Palmer to take a 29-27 lead with 2:53 left in the half. Roby gave the Huskers a 32-31 lead before Palmer’s dunk put the Huskers ahead 34-31, with 34 seconds left in the half.
Lewis led EIU with eight first-half points, as the Panthers had nine players in the scoring column during the first 20 minutes of play.
Nebraska returns to action on Monday night, as the Huskers host North Texas at 7 p.m.