3 Thoughts from Nebraska's 85-66 Loss to George Mason
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

3 Thoughts from Nebraska’s 85-66 Loss to George Mason

November 27, 2019

The Huskers fell flat against George Mason Tuesday night, dropping to 3-3 on the season thanks to an 85-66 loss that featured a poor start, a poor close and not enough shot-making in between. 

Nebraska is back in action Wednesday at 4 p.m. CT when it takes on South Florida. First, here are some thoughts from Tuesday night’s game.

Cayman Got ‘Em

You know how when other NBA teams go play the Miami Heat, they usually open a game pretty poorly? That Miami nightlife does wonders. We’re obviously talking about college kids here so it’s not a direct comparison, but the Huskers were hanging out in the Cayman Islands after winning a basketball game and feeling pretty good about the manner in which they did it, so who knows?

I’m looking for a way to explain the start. Because the start was awful.

Dachon Burke scored Nebraska’s first 12 points because no one else had it.

Nebraska got out-rebounded 29-12 in the first 20 minutes, including a stretch of six minutes and 21 seconds to begin the game were Nebraska didn’t recover a single missed shot. (For the game, Nebraska was again awful at preventing offensive rebounds; George Mason had 15, meaning Nebraska has given up 48 in its last three outings.)

Nebraska turned the ball over 11 times in the first 20 minutes. A three-quarters-court press from the Patriots put the clamps on Nebraska’s ball-handlers and those ball-handlers made poor decisions. Starting point guard Cam Mack went scoreless in the first half, dished just two assists and turned it over three times in the first five minutes.

Nebraska trailed 37-28 at halftime after shooting 32% from the field and 27% from beyond the arc.

The Patriots got into a rhythm, they got confidence and they got in Nebraska’s head. At one point midway through the second half, coach Fred Hoiberg left three of his guards in the backcourt while Thorir Thorbjarnarson shot and missed an and-one free throw, almost as if to say “We know we aren’t getting a board, we need to stop your transition.” George Mason came down and hit a triple.

Not going to win many against good teams—which George Mason, now 7-1, is—with the kind of start the Huskers had.

Defense

It has to be better.

George Mason, down the stretch, got whatever shot it wanted.

Nebraska has been good this season at limiting the 3-ball for opponents and keeping the percentages down, but the Patriots rained triples on the Huskers, sinking 11-of-25 overall and 7-of-12 in the second half.

From the floor, George Mason shot 60% in the final 20 minutes. While Nebraska grew cold (one make from the field in the last six minutes) and fell further behind, the shot selection got worse. Nebraska shot 19 triples in the second half alone. And that all bled over to defense.

Nebraska gave up too many in-rhythm shots. It gave up too many blow-bys. The “We’re going to outscore you” approach doesn’t work well when you’re already facing a deficit.

Shamiel

This isn’t about the game, but it deserves mentioning given the news came out so close to the start of the game. Shamiel Stevenson sat on the bench, where he’s sat throughout the start of this season and cheered on teammates and celebrated dunks  and called out rotations as he saw them on defense. It’s all he can do to help Nebraska right now.

And it’s all he’s going to be able to do to help Nebraska this season.

Nebraska announced Tuesday evening that the NCAA had looked at a waiver request for immediate eligibility for Stevenson three different times and all three times said no. What a disappointing decision from the NCAA.

Stevenson will sit the entire 2019-20 season. He’ll have two years of eligibility left.

The biggest problem with the entire process is no one knows exactly which guidelines will apply for which athletes in which sports at which times. Sporting News published a piece in November last year in which an anonymous coach was quoted saying the NCAA is “deciding whose grandma is sicker than whose uncle.” It makes absolutely no sense.

Justin Fields is a Heisman candidate on the gridiron. Stevenson will probably be a rotation piece for a Nebraska team that will struggle to tread water all season. Is that a 100% factually correct narrative with all the necessary context? No, but when it looks like decisions aren’t being made with any kind of consistency or precedence, this is where we end up.

Stevenson committed to Pitt and coach Kevin Stallings. After Stevenson’s first year there, Stallings was fired and replaced with former Duke assistant Jeff Capel. Stevenson fell out of the rotation, so he transferred mid-season to Nevada to play for Eric Musselman.

Then Musselman left for Arkansas.

Isn’t that the exact situation in which a player has a case for immediate eligibility? Stevenson has already sat out time.

“I am disappointed and hurting for Shamiel,” Hoiberg said in a release. “We believed we presented a strong case on his behalf.”

It’s hard to do so when you don’t know where the goalposts are, though.

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