LINCOLN — The possession started with Glynn Watson tiptoeing the baseline.
The senior stayed just in bounds with the ball after a rebound, then took off.
He dribbled twice, then off his shoe, and the ball rolled to midcourt. Watson dived face-first at it and knocked it away from Southeastern Louisiana’s Marlain Veal, and out of nowhere, Thomas Allen picked up the loose ball then pulled up quickly for 3 in transition.
Watson, at midcourt, took off again. Allen’s shot missed off the back iron. Without thinking and despite the fact that Brady Heiman was in the perfect spot for a tip, Watson launched himself in the air, swatting at the ball with his left hand, tapping the ball in as he crashed hard onto the baseline.
And Nebraska’s lead went from 49 to 51 with eight minutes left.
“Gotta get him out, Coach,” Isaac Copeland told Tim Miles on the bench. “He’s gonna go crazy.”
Timeout was called on the next possession and Miles sent in Amir Harris for Watson.
“Shoulda dunked it,” Palmer called to Watson.
Guess I’m just lazy, Watson responded.
But Watson’s been anything but lazy so far this season. The senior leads the team with 17.5 points per game, plus 4.5 rebounds, three assists and 70 percent shooting from the field.
“That’s a true program guy,” Miles said of Watson’s play early. “He’s really playing well.”
Nebraska, as a team, is quiet. There isn’t a ton of personality. But Miles has seen Watson inch slowly out of his shell this season. He seems more comfortable in his own skin. He has some confidence in his game, and not false confidence. Watson has played 100 games under Miles, and the two have grown close. On Miles’ radio show Monday night, he said he thinks the “exodus” of transfers two years ago — Michael Jacobson, Ed Morrow and others — helped Watson and Miles’ relationship.
“Glynn was being recruited right from our program,” Miles said. “I mean tamper city. And for him to stay and say no, I believe in this, with no guarantee of success, that says a lot.”
Watson’s production dropped a bit from sophomore to junior year, but he’s been the motor for Nebraska early. Watson said he feels that he has a good idea of when to push and when to look to the bench to call some sets. As Nebraska has transitioned from a motion-only offense to more sets, he thinks he has a good grasp of when to give the ball up and let Isaiah Roby or Palmer get a turn at initiating the offense.
But more than anything, Watson is treating this season seriously. After the 69-point opening win over Mississippi Valley State, he was subdued in the postgame press conference and said the win didn’t mean a whole lot. MVSU wasn’t a good team. The Huskers are ready to prove themselves against better competition.
That comes on Wednesday night against Seton Hall.
“We’re looking forward to a tougher game, and a Big East team that’s coming in to try and beat us,” Watson said. “They’re a high-major team, so I think we’re ready to play against them.”
Seton Hall made the NCAA tournament a season ago with a 21-11 record. The Pirates won their tournament opener against North Carolina State and fell by four to No. 1 seed Kansas. The Pirates will try to replace production from four seniors and will lean heavily on sophomore guard Myles Powell, who put up 30 in the Pirates’ opening win over Wagner.
Watson will likely match up with Powell. He’s OK with that. He’s excited Nebraska will finally get tested. There’s plenty of confidence inside the locker room right now. Watson likes the chemistry he has with the rest of the core four. And he likes Nebraska’s chances this season.
“The main core guys, we know what we have in stock, and the young guys are following,” Watson said. “From the jump, from the first two games we played, we just came out and we just said, ‘We’re gonna set the tone and play our hearts out and give it our all.’”
Even if it means tapping in a garbage-time layin to go up 51 instead of 49.
Seton Hall at Nebraska
When: 5:30 p.m.
Where: Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln
Radio: 1600 AM, 105.5 FM