Nebraska Basketball player shooting for a basket
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

3 Takeaways from Nebraska’s 88-72 Loss to TCU

March 25, 2019

With an 88-72 loss to top-seeded TCU on Sunday night, Nebraska’s season is officially over. TCU will host two-seed Creighton for the right to go to Madison Square Garden and the NIT semis while the Huskers will end the 2018-19 campaign 19-17.

Here are three takes from the game.

Burned Out

You are not meant to play all game, every game. No matter how good of shape a kid might be in, asking them to carry the kind of workload James Palmer Jr. and Glynn Watson Jr. and Isaiah Roby have been asked to carry over the last few weeks takes its toll. 

Palmer and Watson played 120 of 120 possible minutes in Nebraska’s three-game run at the Big Ten tournament two weeks ago. Then they each played the entirety of Nebraska’s first-round win over Butler last Wednesday. Roby has been one of two healthy bigs for the last two games.

The minutes are one thing alone, but pair those minutes with the offensive responsibility and the defensive intensity guys like Watson and Roby have to bring night in and night out to be successful and there just comes a breaking point. 

Nebraska’s big three has taken 224-of-287 total shots over the last five games (78 percent of the offense):

  • 45-of-52 shots vs. Rutgers
  • 42-of-55 shots vs. Maryland
  • 53-of-63 shots vs. Wisconsin
  • 38-of-52 shots vs. Butler
  • 46-of-65 shots at TCU

Palmer forced tough shots all night against the Horned Frogs and turned it over three times. He finished the game shooting 7-for-25 from the field, meaning he shot 31 percent over his final three games (20-for-64). He couldn’t get to the rim and didn’t seem to have the same kind of burst off the dribble. Palmer, who leads all Big Ten players in free throw attempts this season, didn’t go to the line until the 4:50 mark in the second half. 

Watson made his first two shots against TCU and finished missing 12 of his final 17. 

Roby, after exploding for 28 points on 12 shots against Butler, put up a season-low four points in 16 minutes. It’s quite possible his Nebraska career could end on an ejection, as he was tossed early in the second half after being assessed a flagrant two foul. He dove for a loose ball, a TCU player did the same and Roby shoved him off.

(A foul, Roby’s fifth, was justified. A flagrant two? Eh. Roby needs to keep his cool, but the situation was absolutely mismanaged after the sideline ref let TCU’s Kendric Davis dive into Roby’s back late and then lay on him.)

Palmer scored 19, Watson scored 17, neither did it with any kind of efficiency and neither scored anywhere near enough. It’s a shame this is how their Nebraska careers will wrap but credit to them for fighting to the end.

Trading Buckets

Nebraska just couldn’t get stops in the second half.

Some of that was the general lack of depth and size. Some of that was Roby getting tossed. Some of that was TCU making shots. But whatever the reasoning, Nebraska couldn’t afford to trade buckets when it went into halftime down eight. 

Palmer followed up an 0-for-10 first half with 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting in the second half and Nebraska lost ground. TCU had 12 assists on 16 made buckets, drilled six triples and shot 59 percent all over the final 20 minutes. The Horned Frogs scored at least 40 in both halves, with 48 in the second.

Nebraska’s Big Ten tournament run was fueled by defense. Then Butler posted an effective field goal percentage of 56 percent in the opening round of the NIT (out-shooting the Huskers). Nebraska won that game because Roby played out of his mind. The Bulldogs got 1.21 points per possession. That needed to be an outlier and not something that carried over into the Huskers’ next game.

TCU got 1.31 points per possession. Anything over one is rough for a defense to swallow. 

And no one in red played out of their mind to compensate.

Nebraska gave up 30 to Desmond Bane on 10-for-15 shooting. Bane entered the game averaging 15 on the season.

This short-handed Husker team doesn’t have the firepower to get into shootouts with teams. So, doing just that against TCU yielded the expected result. 

Brace Yourselves

The loss concludes head coach Tim Miles’ seventh season at the helm in Lincoln and there will be much made of his future in the coming days. His record currently stands at 116-114.

Athletic Director Bill Moos has made it known on multiple occasions that Miles’ fate will be decided at the end of the season. He began an evaluation of the basketball program when he took over in 2017, extended Miles’ contract one season after a 22-win squad failed to earn an NCAA tournament bid and essentially set the expectation as “Bracket or Bust” for the 2018-19 campaign. 

Well, it’s the end of the season, and Nebraska found itself in the NIT tournament for the second year in a row. And now that it has bowed out again, there could be a decision on the program’s future as early as Monday. 

Multiple reports over the weekend indicated that Fred Hoiberg, former coach of the Chicago Bulls and Iowa State Cyclones, could be in play for the Huskers if a move is indeed coming from Moos, but Hoiberg refused to comment on the matter when asked. 

It will be an interesting next few days for the program. For the better part of a year now, there hasn’t been much certainty over the future of this basketball program. I have a feeling that will change here pretty soon.

BONUS: Tanner Game

Senior center Tanner Borchardt deserves the game ball. He had 16 points (a career-high), 13 rebounds (seven on the offensive glass), two assists, a block and a steal. He played 38 minutes and made all six of his shots. 

Borchardt has been an unsung hero since Nebraska lost Isaac Copeland. He doesn’t demand touches on offense, handles forwards and centers much bigger than him on defense, boxes out for teammates, sets screens all over the floor while rarely touching the ball and does it all with literally no backup help. 

If you want an identity to build a program around for the future, take this game film and show it to every single player that comes into the program next season and say, “This is how we’re going to play.”

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