After its six-game win streak had been snapped against the worst team in the Big Ten on Sunday, the Huskers needed to come out and right the ship with a win. Nebraska (21-9, 12-5 Big Ten) did just that with a 66-57 win over Indiana (16-13, 9-8 Big Ten).
Was it a basketball showcase that would put a smile on the face of basketball purists everywhere? No. But a win is a win. Here are a few takeaways from it.
Shield the Eyes
Pretend for a minute you were excited about the new "Justice League" movie when you first heard it was going to be a thing (some weren’t, which is understandable but humor me). Now, let’s also pretend you went and saw it as soon as you could.
Now imagine the horror you might have felt the first time you witnessed Henry Cavill’s CGI-shaven upper lip (Paramount wouldn’t let him shave a mustache because of the 867th "Mission Impossible" movie, what a time to be alive).
That’s what I imagine the first half of Nebraska’s game against Indiana was like for the home crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The place was packed, the fans were ready to rock and then something gross manifested itself on the court right from the opening minutes.
That’s the main takeaway from this game: what an ugly affair. What with all its fouls and turnovers and poorly run offensive sets and missed shots (oh so many missed shots) and passes thrown so low they would have been too low for Spud Webb’s liking and missed layups.
Seriously, what was with the missed layups? I stopped counting after five.
The Huskers shot 40 percent with 14 turnovers and 16 missed 3s. Indiana shot 45 percent (not bad) but missed 11 of its 14 3s (bad) and turned it over 19 times (also bad).
Here’s a crazy stat for you: the Huskers won the battle on the offensive glass 19-11 and yet lost the battle in second-chance points 16-14. What?
Wins are good, yes. And a win is a win is a win. The Huskers have made a habit of winning ugly this season, they’re good at it. Fine, whatever. Head Coach Tim Miles said after the Illinois loss his team didn’t do the little things to win. Things like diving on the floor for loose balls and giving effort on the boards. Nebraska did that in this one and good on them for it. They might not have won if not.
But this one was tough to watch.
Is it fair to say James Palmer Jr. is in a slight funk?
Most of those in attendance Tuesday evening kept waiting for Palmer to take the game over, similar to the way he did in the second half against Maryland and so many other games before on this run. But it never really happened. Palmer got to the line several times late in the game to make the scoring look a little better, but he never made one of those “wow, look what James just did” plays.
Palmer finished with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting (2-of-5 on free throws) with as many turnovers and fouls as assists (three). And it’s not like the foul trouble limited his minutes (he still topped 30) or his aggressiveness, there were just prolonged stretches of time where you forgot Palmer was on the floor.
That’s back-to-back games for the Huskers’ leading scorer that have been less than first-team All-Big Ten-caliber. He had 13 against Illinois on Sunday, his lowest point total in a month.
Is he tired from carrying such a massive offensive load over the past month? Maybe, and could you really blame him? Or are defenses finding better ways to make life tough on him? Who knows, but the Huskers can’t afford to have any kind of offensive regression from Palmer at this point in the season.
The past few weeks have been setting up for it. Ever since that 76-74 overtime loss to Penn State in State College, the regular season finale has been circled. And as we’ve crept closer to it, it’s gotten larger in magnitude.
The Nittany Lions have since swept their season series with class-of-the-conference Ohio State and put themselves on the tournament bubble. You know what the Huskers have done.
The game will be sold out and the stakes will be high as ever. Nebraska needs to close out strong. A 10-0 run late in the second half that took the Huskers from down four to up six and another 8-0 run at the end after Indiana cut the margin to three should inspire plenty of confidence in Nebraska's ability to do just that.
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.