With one exhibition game under their belts, Fred Hoiberg and the Huskers are gearing up to hit the road for their second exhibition at Colorado, a game designed to raise money for the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.
The 87-60 win against Chadron State last Sunday provided Hoiberg and his tape with plenty of teaching tape with some rough patches along with a lot of things Hoiberg liked.
“We addressed a lot of things on both sides of the ball that have to improve,” Hoiberg said. “The one thing I was really pleased with … was our effort and that has to continue to stay constant throughout the entire season. Obviously we did not shoot the ball well, the ball wasn’t going through the hoop, but we were able to manufacture a lot of things just with our effort and getting deflections, turning them over and also with second-chance opportunities on the glass. So we just need to continue on with that and then clean things up.”
Hoiberg said he kept things pretty basic on the offensive end as the Huskers look to focus on the base concepts in the offense. Hoiberg used just two offensive sets throughout the game. Nebraska dished out 17 assists on 33 buckets but shot just 6-of-26 from 3.
“The biggest thing was movement and when we got a little stagnant out there, our possessions weren’t very good,”Hoiberg said. “When we had good pace into the movement, which doesn’t mean we have to shoot fast, but when we had pace in our half court set, even though we only ran a couple plays, we had good results with that, whether it was a good shot or converted basket.”
Hoiberg said he’ll keep things relatively basic again on Sunday while continuing to work on their sets in practice leading up to the season-opener against Maine on Nov. 7. Everyone practiced on Thursday except for freshman walk-on Henry Burt, who sat out with an illness.
“I feel like we’re in a good position heading into the second game,” Hoiberg said. “Great opportunity to play against a really quality opponent in Colorado and a chance to get on the road, which is important for us at this stage because we’ve got some really good early road contests, including our third game of the year at St. John’s, a game fairly early in the year in Kansas City at the Sprint Center against Kansas State and then the multi-team event which, I believe, starts with our fifth game of the year with with three, basically, road games in Orlando; early game at Creighton as well.
“So this gives us a really good chance to get on the road and show everything about what what a road trip looks like for our group that has a lot of new faces.”
Colorado will provide a more significant measuring stick for the Huskers and the new identity they’re trying to establish. The Cornhuskers crushed the smaller Chadron State team on the offensive glass, rebounding more than half their misses and scoring 48 points in the paint. That won’t be so easy against the Buffaloes.
“We’re going to get tested on the glass,” Hoiberg said. “They start 7-1 and 6-9 at the four-five. They’ve got size at their three position as well and from going back and looking at last year’s tape, they’re going to crash four guys on most possessions. So it’s a very physical team. We’re going to be playing up in the altitude, so it’s important to try to get off to a good start.”
Colorado lost its top three scorers including Jabari Walker, a second-round draft pick by the Portland Trailblazers. The team’s top returner is 6-foot-9 junior forward Tristan da Silva who averaged 9.4 points on 47.9% shooting (37.3% from 3), 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists while earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors. Nique Clifford, a 6-foot-6 junior guard, also returns after starting 17 games last season and averaging 6.7 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Coach Tad Boyle added a pair of transfer guards from the Ivy League in Princeton’s Ethan Wright (14.7 point per game, 39.5% from 3) and Yale’s Jalen Gabbidon (11.3 points per game). Joe Hurlburt, a 6-foot-10 center from North Dakota ranked 134th in the 247Sports Composite, headlines the Buffaloes’ 2022 recruiting class.
Hoiberg is no stranger to playing in Boulder from his playing days in the Big 8 and coaching days in the Big 12, and he’s encouraging his players to hydrate well to hep combat the altitude.
“Tad’s teams have always played with great pace to get the ball up the floor, especially in that building,” Hoiberg said. “So we’re going to have to come out early and be ready to take that first punch and try to get our second wind quickly. We’ll sub quicker on Sunday, get our guys in and out. But transition defense and rebounding the ball is going to be very important.”
Hoiberg also expects the Buffaloes to present a difficult test for his ball-handlers, Sam Griesel and Emmanuel Bandoumel in particular. Nebraska had eight turnovers in the first half against Chadron State before settling in and cutting them in half in the second, finishing with 12 giveaways.
“The other thing they’ll do is pressure,” Hoiberg said. “They really get out, again watching last year’s tape, they’ll get up with their big, they’ll trap some. So handling pressure in that building is important. I know that from playing there back in the old Big 8 days and then from coaching against Tad’s team for a couple years before they went to the Pac-12.”
Tipoff on Sunday is set for 5 p.m. The game will be available to stream on Pac-12.com.
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.