By Tommy Rezac
Nebraska junior guard James Palmer had a season-low five points at Penn State last Friday and only played 20 minutes, sitting for much of the second half and overtime.
On Monday night, Nebraska’s lead scorer returned to form with a game-high 24 points; one point short of his career-high.
Head coach Tim Miles stands by benching Palmer in the game against the Nittany Lions; a game where Palmer was 1/9 from the field and Nebraska’s plus-minus was -14 with him on the floor.
Needless to say, Miles was relieved to see one of the team’s best players back in the groove.
“I’m very happy for James,” Miles said after Nebraska’s 64-63 win over Illinois. “I thought that he bounced back in a big way. He and I had a good talk about, ‘James, I believe in you, I know you’re a go-to guy.’ I stuck with him when he was falling down tonight, but James can make plays and that’s always valuable and I thought he was really good tonight.”
Palmer put Nebraska’s loss to Penn State squarely on his shoulders, and was determined to not let his team down again.
“I definitely had to come out and play better this game, because I had two bad games in a row,” Palmer said. “Penn State, I really think that was on me, because I didn’t show up in a road game. We really took the loss hard, so we had to come out and play hard today.”
Another player who needed a bounce back was senior guard Evan Taylor. Taylor had started the first 19 games of the year, but was pulled from the starting lineup in place of senior guard Anton Gill.
In the previous three games before Illinois, Taylor had only scored a grand total of five points. On Monday night, he finished with 13 points along with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
Even though Taylor didn’t make the winning shot, Miles says a win wouldn’t have been possible without him.
“I take him out of the starting lineup, and that means something to Evan,” Miles said. “As a guy who doesn’t score a lot, but does a lot of the dirty work for the team, you appreciate starting a little more than the rest of the guys. He was in the gym the last two days working hard, and to see him come out and play really sharp, I was thankful. We were lucky to have him, because he made a lot of good, good plays. Winning plays.”
13 points were the most scored by Taylor since December 29th. Starting or not starting, Taylor felt happy to be back on track, but felt happier for his team.
“Whatever’s best for the team,” Taylor said on coming off the bench. “It just made me want to play better. I hadn’t been playing well as of late, but I wanted to come out and perfect the game. Steals, rebounds, points. Everything I could do to make my presence felt. Credit to my teammates for giving me confidence through everything.”
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