There’s no rest for the weary, as the saying goes. Fresh off a 1-2 finish in the Wooden Legacy in Anaheim with both losses to major conference schools, the Huskers are headed to the other side of the country to take on Clemson of the ACC on Wednesday.
The Tigers are 3-2 with six-point losses to Xavier and Oklahoma. With Dayton, UCLA and Virginia Tech in the rear-view mirror and Clemson, Creighton and Kansas coming up, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Head coach Tim Miles’ takeaway on the positive side is how the Huskers are competing against the tough schedule.
“I was pleased that we’ve got a good group of young guys that wanted the challenge of this,” Miles said. “We’ve put them up against probably one of the more daunting schedules that Nebraska’s ever going to see, and they’re not going to flinch; they’re going to go out every day. I would expect a heck of a game against Clemson. I just want a couple to go their way. We’ll get over the top, we’ll be all right in time. We just have to get everybody on the same page and get production out of more guys.”
Getting consistent production beyond senior guard Tai Webster has been a problem for the young Huskers this season. According to Miles, “peaks and valleys” would be an improvement from where the Huskers are now in terms of game-to-game production by several players.
“Peaks and valleys would be a lot better than the EKG,” Miles said. “Some of that we have to manufacture to get guys going, recognize that. Other thing is we have to find alternative ways to score – getting to the foul line, getting second shots. I just thought that we really rushed things against Virginia Tech. The UCLA game, we came out tentative. Their size and length was a little bit of a stunner to us. They start 6-foot-11 and 7-foot and they’re big and long. By the time we warmed to that, it was midway through the second half and we were in a ball game. I think we’re learning a lot more about ourselves but to get that continuity, and more importantly, to get some of our bench guys with some regular scoring is really critical.”
The Tigers have six players averaging 10 or more points, but their seventh man is playing fewer than eight minutes per game. Jaron Blossomgame, a 6-foot-7 wing, leads the way at 17.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Inside, they have Sidy Djitte, a 6-foot-10 senior putting up 10.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Gabe DeVoe runs the point at 6-foot-3 and is averaging 13.2 points and 4.0 assists and is shooting nearly 40 percent from deep. Marcquise Reed is the team’s sharp-shooter off the bench as he has shot 8-of-15 from deep through five games.
“Jaron Blossomgame is a great player, a NBA talent type of player,” Miles said. “He really can do a lot of different things. He’s not shooting the 3 this year as well as he has in the past, but we’re hoping that continues. They’ve got good athleticism, strong guards. They’re only about six deep, but they’re a really solid six.
“And then [Clemson Coach] Brad [Brownell], I’ve known Brad Brownell for a long time and he’s an excellent coach. He puts his guys in the right spot. They’ll play a lot of strong man, might throw some 1-3-1 or 2-3 at you, press you if they need to get things going. I would expect we’ll see a variety of things from them defensively. But I also expects a tough-minded team that executes well, kind of a cross between Virginia Tech and UCLA. Not quite UCLA, maybe similar, maybe even better than Virginia Tech.”
Tip-off is set for 8:15 p.m. on ESPNU.
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.