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Nebraska (3-2) dominated the first half defensively, maintained a comfortable pace in the second half, and star freshman Bryce McGowens led the way with a double-double in defeating the Southern Jaguars (1-4) 82-59 on Sunday afternoon in Lincoln.

McGowens showed up on offense and defense with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and a block in a team-high 31 minutes. Only junior forward Derrick Walker’s 2 blocks prevented McGowens from leading NU in each category.

The Huskers pounded Southern in the paint, not only scoring on layups and dunks, but also drawing contact and getting to the charity stripe. 46 points in the paint and 24 made free throws were both double-digit advantages over the Jaguars. “46 in the paint is very important when the ball’s not going through the hoop from the perimeter,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said.

The one thing Nebraska did poorly in the first half is shoot 3-pointers. They only managed one made triple, by Kobe Webster, out of 14 tries. “I thought we had some good looks early, and then I thought we forced some,” Hoiberg said. “I thought after that, we really made a conscious effort, we got some good high-low opportunities, really started sharing the ball.” The Huskers hit 3-9 from deep in the second half.

Scoring first and never trailing, NU suffocated the Jags into an 8:09 scoring drought. While the Huskers were not able to extend their lead by much as they struggled to score themselves, they did turn a 6-4 lead into a 14-4 advantage. It was the first of three separate runs of 6 or more straight points in the half.

Walker again got off to a great start, as he did in Friday’s victory over Idaho State. He scored 6 points in the paint early and had 9 points by the half.

McGowens also got his in the first half, mostly at the free throw line. While he was an efficient 3-5 from the field, he nailed all 7 of his free throws. “Being able to get to the free throw line is major, especially going into Big Ten play, because shots aren’t going to fall every night,” McGowens said.

Bryce McGowens had the highlight of the half. After receiving a pass from Derrick Walker, who was being double-teamed, he went up for what could have been a big dunk, but as he saw the defender he pulled the ball lower, went underneath the block attempt, got fouled, and softly banked the layup in off the glass. He then completed the 3-point play to extend the lead to 37-20 with less than a minute before halftime.

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NU ended the half strong, knocking down 5 of their final 6 shots for a 39-22 lead at the break.

Eduardo Andre got the crowd to their feet in the second half. After a brief scrum for a loose ball, fellow freshman Wilhelm Breidenbach came up with it and found Andre with no defense in front of him. The 6-11 center from London took a couple dribbles, sized up the rim, and executed a powerful reverse dunk. Andre finished with 8 points in 13 minutes of action.

Southern started the second half well, going on a 7-0 run to cut their deficit to just 12 at 41-29 with 17:08 to go. Nebraska answered that with a 9-0 run of their own, maintaining control of the game with a 50-29 lead with 13:35 remaining. The Jaguars never were closer than 16 again.

Senior point guard Alonzo Verge played perhaps his best regular season game for Nebraska, going 4-5 from the field, making all 6 of his free throws, adding 6 rebounds and 4 assists, and most importantly not taking over the offense with ill-advised drives into traffic.

Verge took ownership of some early season struggles with the offense. “It starts with me, I’m the floor general, I’m the point guard,” Verge said. “It starts with me getting my teammates involved and getting guys going. First few games, I struggled with that, and now I’m just slowly but surely getting back to my groove, seeing my guys and getting them open shots and easier buckets.”

Joining McGowens and Verge in double figures were Walker, who scored 15 points, and freshman sharpshooter Keisei Tominaga, who matched his career-high total of 11 points. Part of that total was a 4-point play, as he swished both a 3-pointer and the ensuing free throw.

The Huskers will play their third game in five days on Tuesday, hosting Tennessee State at Pinnacle Bank Arena.