PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Rutgers started to make its push and Nebraska coach Tim Miles admittedly began to worry.
He’s seen his team burst to an early lead before. NU was up 17-4 after four minutes Saturday.
But sustaining the energy, the focus and the confidence? That has been an issue.
So when Rutgers put together a quick 8-2 spurt and pulled within nine points midway through the first half, Miles began to wonder.
“I kind of thought like, ‘OK, here it goes,’ ” Miles said on the Husker Sports Network. “We’re going to get tight now.”
His concerns quickly dissipated.
Nebraska never did flinch Saturday, thumping the Scarlet Knights 90-56 and snapping a 12-game Big Ten losing streak. The 34-point win was the program’s largest margin of victory in a road game since 1920, according to the school’s media relations department. It was the Huskers’ first Big Ten road victory in two years — they had lost their last 10.
NU shot a season-best 56.9 percent from the field and outrebounded Rutgers 43-25. The Huskers got 52 points in the paint and held a 22-6 edge in points off turnovers.
“You never expect this in this league,” Miles said. “Or any league, really.”
The Scarlet Knights, who’ve now lost 19 consecutive games against conference opponents, were playing without a few key pieces, particularly in their frontcourt.
A head injury kept 6-foot-6 freshman Jonathan Laurent out for the second straight game. Junior Deshawn Freeman, a 6-foot-7 forward who’s averaged 13.1 points in seven games, hasn’t played since Nov. 30. Foot injuries continued to sideline 6-foot-11 sophomore Shaquille Doorson and 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman Ibrahima Diallo. Rutgers played the majority of the game with a seven-man rotation.
Even at full strength, though, the Scarlet Knights would have likely had problems keeping up with the Huskers.
Junior Andrew White led Nebraska on offense, scoring 28 points in 25 minutes of action. He hit 11 of 14 shots — five 3-pointers, three put-backs, two 18-footers, plus an and-one.
He made a 3-point shot with about four minutes left in the first half to keep momentum on Nebraska’s end. Rutgers had cut its deficit to nine points, but freshman Ed Morrow grabbed an offensive rebound and laid in a follow shot. Then White nailed his long-range jumper. Senior Benny Parker found Morrow for a layup on NU’s next possession, pushing its lead to 38-22.
The Huskers had a 20-point cushion by halftime. They led by as many as 36 in the second half.
It was much different from Nebraska’s first three Big Ten games of the season.
The Huskers jumped out to a 12-2 lead at Iowa Tuesday. They were edging Indiana at halftime and were up by 12 after the break against Northwestern. But they couldn’t hang on in any of those.
That wasn’t a problem Saturday.
“I’m not ready to say we’re turning the corner,” Miles said. “But it’s got to give the guys a shot in the arm. It’s got to give them a lift. And it should. They played very determined and they gave a very strong effort. And that’s what we need.”
» The Huskers used some full-court press Saturday. A new “wrinkle,” Miles said. He thought his players did well with it. “We’ve got some good athletes,” he said. “Maybe it slows some people down.”
» Nebraska held Rutgers to 33.3-percent shooting. RU missed its first 10 3-pointers.
» The Huskers’ next opponent, Minnesota, got blitzed by Northwestern on Saturday. The Gophers lost 77-52 at home. They play at Nebraska on Tuesday.