With a roster featuring eight new faces and a team playing its first home game of the season together, it was expected that Nebraska would have some rust to knock off in its exhibition season opener against Peru State on Wednesday night.
Needless to say, the Huskers had a whole bunch of rust to get out of the way.
Despite 16 turnovers and a dismal start to the game, Nebraska eventually got things going and routed the Bobcats 75-43. Sophomore forward Christian Standhardinger scored a game-high 16 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the free throw line to go along with 10 rebounds, and sophomore center Jorge Brian Diaz added 13 points.
Head coach Doc Sadler said he wasn't expecting a perfect performance, and he definitely saw plenty of improvements that needed to be made before the regular season schedule opens next week.
But for the four Nebraska natives on Peru State's roster to get the chance to play at the Devaney Center one last time, Sadler said, made the game a success in itself.
"People ask what you get out of (a game) like this, and the (Peru State guard), Andre Wells, after the game came up and just said 'Coach, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you playing us. It was a privilege to play here,'" Sadler said. "That's what it's about. You can play a lot of exhibition games against a lot of people, but as I've said before, every kid in Nebraska that plays college basketball would love to play here at the University of Nebraska on that court.
"If nothing else, that made it worthwhile."
Both teams came stumbling out of the gates in their first competition of the season, as neither could find any semblance of offense through the game's first 10 minutes.
In fact, neither team broke the 10-point mark until sophomore guard Ray Gallegos threw down a one-handed jam off a blocked shot by Diaz to make it 11-2 with 11:40 left in the first half.
Luckily for the Huskers, Peru State made them look like sharpshooters to open the game, as the Bobcats made just three of their first 10 field goal attempts and didn't hit double figures until Derrick Williams hit a pair of free throws with 7:09 to go.
Nebraska finally started to get things going late in the half, putting together a 25-5 run to go into halftime with a convincing 42-15 lead. Of the Huskers' 42 points in the half, 33 came off lay-ups, dunks or free throws, which accounted for their first 24 points of the night.
The Huskers kept that momentum going into the second half, as they steadily built up their lead and went up by as much as 38 points with 9:30 left to play. The Bobcats never came within 29 from that point on.
Junior center Andre Almeida added 11 points, six rebounds and six assists in his first game in Lincoln, while guard Devin Eighmey led the way for Peru State with 13 points.
The Huskers will wrap up their exhibition schedule on Monday when they play host to Bellevue at 7 p.m.
"Overall, for our first exhibition game, I was pretty well pleased," Sadler said.
Around the rim
***One of the more pleasant surprises for Nebraska on the night was the play of Almeida, who displayed some very nice and unexpected finesse with the ball in the low post. Along with some nice shooting touch on a few jump hooks, the 6-foot-11, 310-pounder had impressive court awareness in dishing out his team-best six assists.
"Well sometimes I think he passes too much," Sadler said. "Andre is a skilled player, and I can't give enough credit to him for how much time and effort he's put in to getting himself in basketball shape. That's a credit to him. You all just saw a small part of it. But now he ain't King Kong, don't get confused. He may look like King Kong, but he's not King Kong. He's still got a lot of work to do, but he knows that."
Almeida said he developed his passing skills after being double-teamed essentially his entire career every time he gets the ball.
"Since I was young playing in Brazil, people were doubling me every time, so I just passed the ball," Almeida said. "It's not something I'm working on, it just happened. Sometimes I'm passing even before I look at the basket, so that's something I've got to work on."
***The Huskers had a scary moment within the first few minutes of the game when junior guard Brandon Richardson went to the floor after stepping on an official's foot and suffering what Sadler called a high ankle sprain. Richardson did not return to the game after that, and Sadler said he expects him to be out at least for the rest of the week.
"It sounds like from talking with our trainer that it's going to be a few days for sure," Sadler said. "It's not around the ankle, it's up high, and as well all know those things sometimes can take a little bit longer."
***Two players expected to have a big impact for NU this season didn't even see the court on Wednesday. Guards Toney McCray and Eshaunte Jones were both held out of action because Sadler said they missed a tutoring session earlier in the week.
"One of the things that we have at Nebraska is probably one of the finest academic support staff in the country, and (McCray and Jones) missed a tutoring session," Sadler said. "That's all it was."
McCray likely wouldn't have played Wednesday regardless because he's been suffering from plantar fasciitis in his foot, which forced him to sit out of Tuesday's practice. However, Sadler said he expects both Jones and McCray to return to practice on Thursday and play in Monday's exhibition game against Bellevue.
***In other injury news, Sadler said redshirt sophomore center Christopher Niemann only suffered meniscus damage in his knee and would only be out roughly three to four weeks.
***There was a chance that Gallegos might redshirt this season, but that idea came to an end when he stepped onto the court Wednesday. Sadler said the NCAA rule is that only freshman may play in exhibition games and still maintain their redshirt eligibility.
"We talked about it today for a long time," Sadler said. "He made the decision."