LINCOLN — Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles has been wondering aloud where his team’s scoring is going to come from.
In a 66-55 victory Sunday night against Southern, three Huskers answered the call.
Guard Ray Gallegos scored 12 of his career-high 16 points in the first half; forward Brandon Ubel had 17 of his career-high 21 in the second half; and wing Dylan Talley had 17 overall to give Miles a successful debut at NU in front of 7,257 at the Devaney Center.
On a team with no returning double-figure scorer, Miles said those three and senior Andre Almeida need to become “my go-to guys.”
When players haven’t been groomed as primary scorers, are there issues in developing them into offensive focal points?
“I would think that would be a pretty good problem to have,” Miles said. “There might be, but at the same time that’s part of being a competitor — getting past that and embracing that and finding a way to be successful.”
Ubel, a four-year regular with a 5.7-point career scoring average, hit 8 of 12 shots and all five free throws for his first 20-point game in 95 career contests. He also added a career-high 12 rebounds.
The senior from Overland Park, Kan., said those numbers need to become the norm, not the exception.
“We’ve got to have guys step up and score, and I’m one of those guys who need to do that,” he said. “I need to be around 17 or 18 a game and eight or nine rebounds a game plus.”
Nebraska (1-0) scored the game’s first nine points and never trailed against Southern (0-2), shooting 51.9 percent from the field (28 of 54).
But NU’s 12-point first-half lead had been whittled to three at 31-28 on the first possession of the second half.
Then Ubel, held to four points in the first half, went to work. He scored 14 points in the next 10 minutes to help the Huskers build a 52-36 lead with 9:02 to play.
“Coach Miles challenged me and Andre at halftime, saying those guys couldn’t really guard us in the post if we really demanded the ball and played physical,” Ubel said. “So I just came out and played aggressive.
“Now, I’ve got to play that way from the jump.”
When Southern tried to crawl back in the game, closing to 56-48 with 3:58 to play, Ubel answered again. His three-point play with 3:34 to go kept Nebraska’s lead in double digits the rest of the way.
For three years, Ubel essentially was a passer, screener and rebounder on offense instead of a first scoring option. The adjustment to that role continues.
“I’ll set a screen and instead of looking for them to shoot, they’re looking for me,” he said. “That took a little bit of time, but I think I’m starting to get pretty comfortable with that role.”
Gallegos’ 16 points came in his first game after a redshirt season. The junior from Salt Lake City hit 7 of 11 shots from the field.
“I was kind of jittery because it was my first game back,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect. But the coaches told me to stay aggressive and play ball.”
Defensively, Nebraska limited Southern guard Derick Beltran — who scorched Iowa State for 26 points last Friday — to seven points in the first 30 minutes, and 17 overall.
But the Huskers never really shook the Jaguars because of some defensive lapses.
“When we got tired in both halves, we just quit guarding the ball,” Miles said. “It was as simple as ‘get back, get ready, guard the ball.’
“That’s mental. A lot of our defensive errors are just mental.”
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