Nebraska dropped to 7-10 on the season, 2-4 in Big Ten play, and in doing so allowed the 21st-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes to break a four-game losing streak Tuesday night. The Huskers lost on the road 80-68 after being thoroughly controlled for most of the evening.
Nebraska plays Indiana at home next, a Saturday tipoff set for 6 p.m. CT on BTN. But before fully turning the page, here are three thoughts on Tuesday night’s loss.
Jervay Green emerged from exile in the first half against the Buckeyes. Nebraska was down 30-17 and it was a strange entrance for the junior guard. Charlie Easley had already played. Nothing much was working for a Husker team shooting poorly, and it felt like Green’s entry was sort of like a “Well, nothing else is working.”
Almost like the problems the Huskers were experiencing before Green’s removal from the rotation weren’t to be pinned entirely on Green. Ohio State is really good, contrary to what a four-game losing streak would suggest, and I’m not here to question Fred Hoiberg decisions; he has his finger on the pulse and I don’t and he’ll know what’s best, but now Green has to stay in the rotation.
Nebraska needs him to.
The former junior college scorer has struggled to translate his scoring and as a result his defense has suffered, but he brought energy against the Buckeyes. He hit NU’s first 3, and what would be its only 3 in nine attempts during the first half. He twice drove, drew the extra defender, and dumped sweet passes off to Yvan Ouedraogo under the hoop. Ouedraogo didn’t get points off either (directly) but that’s not Green’s fault. He made the right play. He had the best plus-minus of any Husker in a first half in which NU was outscored by 13.
Four fouls on point guard Cam Mack with 12 minutes still to play in the second half brought Green back into the game. Mack had played the full 20 minutes in the first. Ohio State forced Hoiberg’s hand. Green again did little things that come when a guy brings energy.
I wonder if Nebraska needs to once again tweak the starting five to switch up the lineups throughout. The Huskers out-rebounded Ohio State in the first half, grabbed eight offensive boards and gave up just two to a larger Buckeye team, and outscored Ohio State in the paint. Yet the 13-point deficit.
Why? Because Nebraska shot 31% from the field. It just doesn’t have the offensive punch it needs right now. Blame a guard who was expected to be a key reserve for jumping out of the boat so quickly. Blame the NCAA for denying a clearly-deserving waiver. Blame whatever. Nebraska needs answers, though.
Haanif Cheatham can do a bit of creating in a pinch, but most of his production this season has come from leak-outs in transition and his teammates finding him slashing to the hoop. Thorir Thorbjarnarson is better as a slasher and a catch-and-shoot guy. Ouedraogo’s offense is still very much a work in progress.
I wonder if moving someone like Cheatham to the bench, creating a spark plug/energy-bringing sixth man, might be the play. Hoiberg wanted that extra ball-handler/creator on the floor to open the year and the Huskers very much need that for this offense to ignite. If Green is going to continue to bring this kind of energy, Thor and Cheatham sharing so much time together when Ouedraogo is already out there puts the onus squarely on Mack and he needs something to come off his plate.
All of this talk, though, is contingent on Green continuing to show the energy he showed against the Buckeyes.
Making Things Hard on Themselves
Can they stop with the power dribbling? Please?
How many times in the last two games has Nebraska created an open layup with a nice drive-and-dish that was taken away because a Husker caught the ball and brought it down. Ouedraogo did it twice against the Buckeyes. Cheatham did it several times against Northwestern’s zone. The shot is there, just put it up.
Can’t do that when Nebraska is missing layups (18-for-32 against the Buckeyes).
Can’t do that when you’re turning down open shots created by your ball movement. I don’t much care if the shot comes early in the shot clock if it's open. Nebraska wants to play up-tempo anyway. I’ve counted too many possessions where the Huskers have caught on the perimeter and shot-faked instead of going straight up, only to allow the defense to reset itself and force a contested shot.
Just make things easier on yourself.
Threes are Worth More Than Twos
Wrote about this a while ago and not much lasting change has happened since.
The Huskers are very willing to let you shoot 3s. They drop in the pick-and-roll, they suck in on the backside, they double the post and don’t fly out to shooters. Ohio State hit 10 of its 22 3s (45%).
Giving one thing up works if you take away other stuff but the Huskers aren’t.
Nebraska lets the open shooter fire away from the left wing because it is concerned about letting Kaleb Wesson eat inside, but then Kevin Cross lets Wesson set up in prime rebounding position, grab the offensive board and slam it home. The Buckeyes getting 34 points in the paint, another 15 free throw attempts and 30 points from 3s is a bad recipe.
Size is an issue and will continue to be an issue but the Huskers have to start taking something away defensively.
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.