All across college basketball, conference play is getting under way after the holiday break.
However, the Huskers (9-5, 1-1) have one more speed bump before they dive into the Big Ten. Nebraska is set to host Stetson (7-7) on Friday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena to close out the nonconference slate.
The Huskers are back in action after spending some time at home. After a tough five-game stretch against high-major teams, three of them ranked, Coach Tim Miles said the break was much deserved for the players.
“It was good to get those guys home,” Miles said. “It’s the same way every time — some guys go back home and they come back ready and great, and sometimes they come back worse. That’s what some of our guys are doing, so we’re getting the turkey out of those guys that need it out of them and keeping the other guys in the right frame of mind and going hard.”
Sophomore forward Isaiah Roby said the players were definitely well-fed back home and the first order of business was to work some of that off.
“It’s kind of what you’d expect — everybody was eating good when they were back home so people are just trying to get back in the flow of stuff, get back to the speed of the game, just trying to get back to where we were,” Roby said.
All in all, Miles said the first few practices have been a mixed bag but Thursday was a good day.
“I think the guys came back ready to go,” Miles said. “I was really encouraged by our practice on our first night back, then yesterday wasn’t as good and today was much better.”
Stetson is led by 5-foot-11 senior guard Divine Myles averaging 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals. The Hatters also have three players averaging between nine and 12 points. Though league play begins in less than a week, the Huskers aren’t overlooking Stetson.
“We want to take every game the same, so it’s just the same two-day prep we have for Stetson,” Roby said.
Roby’s emergence this season has had a huge impact on the Huskers this season because his versatility allows Miles to go small when centers Jordy Tshimanga and Duby Okeke don’t match up well with the opponent. Roby is averaging 7.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and a team-best 1.8 blocks off the bench in 19.5 minutes for game.
“I think it’s cool that a guy like myself or even Isaac [Copeland], we can play the three through the five, and that’s tough for other teams to handle,” Roby said. “I know usually when we do it, we make a run or try to stop a run so it’s usually been really good for us. I know we’re going to keep on using it even in Big Ten play just because everybody’s going to where their five can dribble and shoot. A lot of teams in the Big Ten have skilled fives, so I think we’re going to continue ti use it and it’s going to continue to be a key for us.”
Roby said ball screen defense is the biggest adjustment he’s had to make playing more center in those small-ball lineups as opposed to playing at forward or on the wing.
“When I’m at the five, it’s different rules; I can’t switch all the screens and just guard guards,” Roby said. “I’m guarding a center, so I’ve had to adapt to, in the middle of the game, doing both of those things and I think I’m doing a better job of that. Also, when we have a small lineup, the guards have to pick up the rebounding a little bit and I think they’re doing a real good job of that …. It’s tough but it’s a challenge Coach Miles has given me and it helps our team out a lot, so I’m happy to do it.””
Tipoff for Friday’s game is set for 7:00 p.m.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.