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Huskers take care of Rutgers for fifth consecutive win

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Isaiah Roby got past his defender, planted his right foot for takeoff, and just sort of kept rising.

He's been close to something big a few times this season. But Saturday against Rutgers, the sophomore cocked his right arm back and finished off a thunderous slam that started when he jumped from a couple of steps inside the free-throw line and left Pinnacle Bank Arena buzzing.

It was all part of the show as the Nebraska men's basketball team bolted to a quick double-digit lead, then took care of business over the final 32 minutes in a 67-55 win.

"When I knew he got the step, I just stood up on the bench," junior guard James Palmer said. "I knew he was going to dunk it."

Roby finished with a double-double and teamed with Duby Okeke to fill the highlight reel as the Huskers led 20-4 less than eight minutes into the game. Nebraska never led by fewer than two possessions in winning for the fifth consecutive game and the seventh time in their past eight contests to improve to 19-8 overall and 10-4 in the Big Ten.

The victory came at the end of a week that started with a win against Minnesota and unrest in the Nebraska locker room after a video surfaced of a white nationalist University of Nebraska-Lincoln student discussing his desire to be violent.

It left the Huskers uncomfortable, and wondering how to respond.

They did so by taking a leadership role, wearing black T-shirts Saturday that read "Hate Will Never Win" and delivering a message of inclusion in a pregame video.

Once the game started, Nebraska almost immediately took control.

"I felt pretty good about the team’s attitude. I think that just kind of goes with us maturing as a team, together," graduate transfer Duby Okeke said. "We were a little upset about everything that was going on, but we knew, once it comes to basketball, we’re going to be fine. We were just trying to be locked-in and put our attention towards Rutgers."

Roby finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds, two blocked shots and two assists one game after scoring a career-high 19 points at Minnesota. 

Palmer led Nebraska with 15 points, five boards and four assists. Glynn Watson had 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Isaac Copeland chipped in 11 points.

Nebraska led by at least two possessions for the game's final 37-plus minutes while reaching double-digit conference wins for just the second time since joining the Big Ten and the first since the NCAA Tournament season of 2013-14.

Nebraska coach Tim Miles said he was concerned early in Friday's practice, when his team was sluggish out of the gate. But after redoing a drill to get his players' attention, things went much smoother.

"Obviously, you expend a lot of emotional energy in a week like that, and I told the guys — stay off social media (Friday night). You can't read everything that's out there, so just relax and get ready for an afternoon game," Miles said. "You look at what's at stake: fourth place in the Big Ten, undefeated at home in the league, and a chance to play your way into the NCAA Tournament.

"That's a lot at stake. So we need their focus. And I think they understand what their goals are, and they want to accomplish them."

Nebraska used a 10-0 run early in the second half to go up 16, and cruised from there as Rutgers (12-15, 2-11 Big Ten) missed 15 of 19 shots spanning the first and second halves after drawing within five points.

Corey Sanders led Rutgers with 14 points. Deshawn Freeman added 12 points and seven rebounds, and Eugene Omoruyi had 11 points and nine rebounds.

But Nebraska did what was needed with Maryland coming to town Tuesday for yet another critical matchup.

"The coaches did a good job of just keeping us focused," Roby said. "We had a lot of stuff to think about off the court, too, but once we get on the court, it's all basketball."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


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Husker men's basketball/baseball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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