Nebraska came up on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the first time this season in Kansas City Tuesday night.
The Huskers, now 4-1 on the year, fell to Texas Tech (5-0) in the final at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. Here are three quick reactions to the Huskers’ loss.
Texas Tech was an Elite Eight squad a season ago. Head coach Chris Beard had plenty of turnover but Tech represented a big name on a national stage. Want the larger basketball public to take you seriously? You win these types of games.
Eight turnovers and a frigid 38 percent shooting from the field in the first half meant Nebraska found itself trailing after 20 minutes for the first time this season.
Tech entered the Hall of Fame Classic final holding opponents to 48 points a game on 33 percent shooting. Nebraska came into the game with the best defense in the country by defensive rating (points per 100 possessions), but the Red Raiders had the fourth-best.
They caused problems, but Nebraska also missed shots it had made to begin the season and committed careless turnovers.
You thought that stuff might improve in the second half.
Then it didn’t.
Glynn Watson Jr. shot 2-for-11 from the field and slipped back into the “fadeaway off the dribble” Watson of a season ago. Isaiah Roby was quiet, taking just five shots in 37 minutes (though he had four turnovers). Thomas Allen Jr. was a complete non-factor, with four points, a turnover and nothing else in 36 minutes.
James Palmer Jr., Nebraska’s leading scorer, never got into a rhythm because he couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. Palmer had three offensive fouls called on him and two dumb fouls on the defensive end. The senior guard opened the game with an and-one conversion and a triple over a defender in the first two and a half minutes. It looked like it was going to be another Palmer show and that feeling went away fast.
As frustration started to set in late, Tech pulled away. The tipping point came with eight minutes to play when head coach Tim Miles drew a technical for arguing with the officials. Tech knocked down the two free throws and ballooned its lead to 15 points.
Nebraska never got back within single digits.
Nebraska had six assists and 14 turnovers.
Miles didn’t just shorten his rotation, he cut it off completely. Palmer fouled out and still played nearly 30 minutes. No one on the bench played more than 10 minutes.
Sophomore wing Nana Akenten has been the team’s second-best 3-point shooter through the first four and only played 10 minutes. He was the only member of the bench to hit a shot from the field, which isn’t really saying anything because only three guys played off the bench and that unit only produced three points.
The Red Raiders style of play had a hand in making things look worse than they were, but Nebraska needs to figure out its rotations. When Palmer wasn’t on the floor, the Huskers couldn’t score.
It’s not like Tech was lighting up the scoreboard, either. The Red Raiders hit 43 percent of their shots and 33 percent from deep. Nebraska took more free throws. Nebraska just did itself no favors with shot selection; screen-and-roll movement was replaced with dribble handoffs and pull-ups.
It’s a loss, it feels bad, it sucks, whatever. Take it, but don’t dwell on it.
Nebraska got weird and frankly inconsistent whistles early. A charge on Palmer in the first half was called as a blocking foul on Tanner Borchardt despite being virtually the same play. Palmer had four total fouls heading into the night.
Roby needs to figure out the foul trouble (he had three again Tuesday night) but that’s nothing new. He does, however, need to be more consistently involved in the offense for Nebraska moving forward.
But you could say that about everyone not named Watson or Isaac Copeland against the Red Raiders.
Law of averages says those open shots won’t keep clanging off the rim. It felt like there was an unsettling number of traveling calls on the Huskers.
Just not Nebraska’s night. The squad is 4-1 now and needs to turn attention to Western Illinois on Saturday. Tip for that one is set for 1 p.m. CT. Two days after, on Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. CT, Nebraska will hit the road for a Big Ten-ACC clash with 16th-ranked Clemson. Don’t let this one linger.
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.