Nebraska has dropped seven of its last eight games and things don’t get any easier on Thursday as the Big Ten-leading Wisconsin comes to town.
“We expect a really good team,” sophomore forward Michael Jacobson said. “They’ve got four seniors leading them, guys who have a ton of experience who’ve played in Final Fours and Elite Eights. They know how to win, they know how to get it done. They’re obviously rolling right now … We’re expecting a typical Wisconsin team.”
Nebraska is just 4-7 in conference play, but two of those wins came against the teams tied for second place behind the Badgers in Purdue and Maryland.
“We just try to prepare each game, take it one game at a time,” Jacobson said. “We don’t try to think too far ahead or too far behind, like ‘Oh, we beat Purdue so we should beat these guys too.’ You just have to look at it as each individual opponent is different and I think if we did happen to win tomorrow, it would be huge for our season. Obviously we’re coming down to the last little stretch here and maybe we’re not exactly where we want to be, but I think if we did manage to win it would be a huge help, a huge confidence-booster type thing against a Top 10 team. That does a lot for your program I think.”
The Huskers will get a couple extra days before their next game after Thursday as the Huskers won’t play again until Tuesday, and Jacobson said that break is much needed for a Nebraska squad ravaged by injuries.
“I think it’s been noted that we’ve got some guys banged up so it is good to maybe get a little bit of a break here,” Jacobson said. “I think it’s also good just to break up the rhythm of playing every Thursday-Sunday or every Wednesday-Saturday type of deal. It’s good that way too and guys can get healthier, work on their little nicks and bruises and also work on their games a little bit, get better, improve some things that haven’t gone as well. It gives us practice time which is really helpful I think in the last part of the season here when you really need it.”
The Badgers have a talented senior duo in point guard Bronson Koenig and preseason Big Ten Player of the Nigel Hayes, but it is redshirt sophomore center Ethan Happ who leads the team with 14.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
“I’m hoping Jordy and Ed handle most of that,” Jacobson said about defending Happ. “I think you just kind of have to prepare, similar to Purdue maybe, with those two skilled bigs, and he’s a guy who can score in a lot of different ways, really crafty around the rim, uses his body well, uses ball fakes, things like that. Really skilled player and he just works hard all the time. He gets his hands on a lot of balls — rebounds, steals, everything like that. You’ve kind of got to prepare for everything. I don’t know, we’ve got some different game plan things in mind to try to counter what he does, but obviously a really good player.”
Coach Tim Miles said the key to beating Wisconsin is limiting mistakes.
“You have to beat Wisconsin,” Miles said. “You don’t have to beat everybody; if you look at the recipe for winning, the first thing you do is eliminate losing, and sometimes if you’re standing on the baseline in a tennis match and you just keep it in play, the other dude just hits it out of bounds or hits it into the net and you win the point.
“Same thing in basketball; if you can just eliminate losing, you can win a whole bunch of games. Not against these guys. You have to have a full gamut of the recipe. You have to eliminate losing on your end, you have to take away their strengths, and then you still have to have your players making plays or you don’t beat them … They really put it in the paint as well as anybody and they make 3s as well as anybody.”
Miles said that both sophomore forward Ed Morrow Jr. (who has missed the last seven games with a stress reaction in his foot) and sophomore point guard Glynn Watson Jr. (who came off the bench and was limited to 17 minutes off the bench by a groin injury) practiced and are day-to-day ahead of Thursday’s game.
Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. 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.