LINCOLN, Neb. — For the second straight game, the Nebraska basketball team has to work past the frustration of a last second loss in order to move on to their next game after the Huskers fell on a game-winning put-back at Rutgers on Saturday.
“There’s no doubt that there was great disappointment after the two ball games, after each of them and then collectively,” Coach Tim Miles said. “The fact that you’re three seconds from being third place in the league, that’s just the reality. I met with the guys, I was like ‘Hey, we dug our own hole, so let’s dig our way out of it.’ I asked them to be very determined and I thought we had some solid practices, but you never know until you get hit in the mouth out there again. When you’re in your home environment and everything’s good, this is like our womb, everything’s great. But when we get out in the real world we’re going to find out.”
Sophomore forward Michael Jacobson said the Huskers are focusing on putting in extra work to move past the frustration of those losses.
“I think just trying to get back to work,” Jacobson said. “Obviously coming off two one-point losses in the last couple seconds of each game, it’s tough; kind of a numbing feeling. So I think we just tried to promote work and getting through it together and just trying to get back to ourselves.”
The Huskers will head to Evanston, Illinois, on Thursday night to take on Northwestern for the second time this season. The Huskers fell to the Wildcats in Lincoln on Jan. 8.
“I remember it was a back and forth game and they kind of took it over towards the end,” Jacobson said. “We didn’t make some of the plays we thought we’d normally make down the stretch and ended up coming out with a nice victory. As far as what I remember, they’ve got a lot of different actions, they like to run a lot of sets and put you in different screening actions and make it tough for you. They’ve got a lot of tough kids, a lot of skilled kids. Their guard court is really good. Dererk Pardon seems to have good games against us all the time so we’ll try to figure that out.”
Miles said he has a few adjustments planned to try to slow down the Wildcats after they shot 11-of-24 from 3-point range in their previous meeting.
“The strategy didn’t work the first time, so there will be some plan-B things in place to try to take away what, 11, 12 3s?” Miles said. :We just cannot give up that many 3s … They haven’t shot it as well at home, knock on wood, as they have on the road … so maybe there’s something to that too. But we can’t let them get hot on us. So I think taking away their transition and jumpshooting is a big deal.”
The Wildcats are 16-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten, good for fourth in the conference, and under Coach Chris Collins they have a legitimate shot at making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
“I think he’s done a good job with local talent,” Miles said. “Even though [Dererk] Pardon and [Gavin] Skelly are Ohio kids, he’s got those other three Chicago kids and [Bryant] McIntosh who’s right there across the way [in Indiana]. That’s helped them to a degree, and I think they’re really well coached. I think Chris [Collins] does a tremendous job … I think they game plan offensively about as well as anybody. They’ve done a nice job on our guards defensively too with their length. They’ve been a good defensive team. So we’ll have to find a way to break them down. We have to get out in transition, we’ve got to make some outside shots and then take away theirs.”
Northwestern isn’t the only team with a lot of talent from Illinois. The Huskers also have three players on their roster — sophomore point guard Glynn Watson Jr., sophomore forward Ed Morrow Jr. and freshman forward Isaiah Roby — and the game serves as somewhat of a homecoming for them, although Morrow will not play as he continues to recover from a stress reaction in his foot.
“All the Illinois kids you can tell they’re extra pumped up or extra nervous … They come out and they really want to do well, whether we’re playing Illinois or Northwestern,” Miles said.
Tip-off in Evanston is set for 7 p.m. Thursday on BTN.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.