Sitting in 10th place in the Big Ten, Nebraska could jump as high as seventh place in the league with a win at home Thursday against Indiana. Nebraska will have to try to make that leap without point guard Deverell Biggs however, who was dismissed from the team this week.
Coming off a roller coaster stretch that contained wins against Ohio State and Minnesota and a loss to Penn State, Nebraska coach Tim Miles said the focus has shifted to mental toughness as the Huskers welcome the Hoosiers – a 29-7 Sweet 16 team a year ago. Both teams have rebuilding to do, with Indiana needed to restock the shelves after the NBA draft, and Nebraska needing someone to replace the points and exciting play of Biggs.
“There were games we won where if we don’t have Deverell, we don’t win,” Miles said. “He’s a guy that’s electric with the ball, and we don’t have that. We don’t have another guy that’s gonna do that.”
Miles quickly pointed out that there’s no need to play basketball just one way, saying he’s not switching from a wishbone to a spread offense like football. The pressure now seems to have increased on freshman guard Tai Webster, who is averaging 7.5 points per game for Nebraska.
The touted New Zealand point guard prospect had been considered a bit of a letdown to this point, cracking double-digit scoring just three times as the starting point guard in the 2013-14 season. Miles said he hasn’t been concerned with Webster “looking over his shoulder” at Biggs, who averaged 9.9 points per game off the bench before his dismissal.
“Tai just needs to continually to get better, bottom line,” Miles said. “It’s that simple. We don’t need more out of him. We certainly don’t need less.”
Miles added that the Webster’s need to develop and mature isn’t exclusive to him however, but spreads throughout the whole team. After losing to Penn State on the road, Miles said he simplified practice and revisited some fundamentals.
With the weeklong run that contained three games over, Miles was able to return to watching Minnesota film and compiling the nine best actions to defend Indiana, he said. Revisiting the Penn State loss gave Miles the chance to realize that the goal for January should be mental freshness without getting too obsessed with game plans.
“You can game plan yourself to mental numbness,” he said. “That doesn’t work well for anybody…The greatest compliment a coach can have is ‘that team looks like they don’t need a coach.’”
Miles said in reviewing Penn State film, Nebraska’s players looked to the bench “for everything.” Those types of struggles trace back to Nebraska’s play in road games, in which the Huskers are winless (save for a non-home tournament win per Georgia.)
Despite getting Indiana at home, Nebraska will still have to put up with Hoosier guard Yogi Ferrell and freshman forward Noah Vonleh, who combine for a per-game average of 29.5 points.
“Ferrell is as good of a guard as there is in the league,” Miles said. “Noah Vonleh is going to be in the NBA at some point…they’ve got a lot of options.”