All it takes is one win to turn around a season, and that is what the Huskers are hoping Wednesday’s 87-83 victory at No. 16 Indiana will do as Nebraska navigates its way through the Big Ten schedule.
The win bumps the Huskers back above .500 at 7-6, but more importantly it gives them a 1-0 start in Big ten play. Sophomore forward Ed Morrow Jr. said the team is starting to find its stride.
“We’re just sort of carrying on from playing Indiana,” Morrow said. “We have a great attitude. We’ve been practicing pretty well. I’m excited for the guys. Our younger guys are starting to click. We’re just really in a flow and are starting to become more of a unit.”
Although “younger guys” could truly refer to most of the roster, Morrow included, but in this case it means the three freshmen – Forwards Jeriah Horne and Isaiah Roby and center Jordy Tshimanga. Those three combined for all of the bench minutes against Indiana and contributed 21 points. Roby said the tough nonconference slate prepared himself and his young teammates to play at an arena like Assembly Hall in Blooomington.
“I feel like just the experience of playing against UCLA and Kansas and having to compete every possession to try to get a win, I think that’s definitely going to help us out throughout the whole Big Ten season,” Roby said. “I know Assembly Hall got really, really loud; it was a great environment to play in. But I feel like as freshmen we played in the Kansas game already, so we didn’t let the crowd get to us, we didn’t let the moment get to us, we didn’t score watch to see what we were up or what we were down. We just kind of played and competed every possession.”
Coach Tim Miles said the Huskers showed what they are capable of when things are clicking.
“I told them they screwed up,” Miles said. “Now they’ve proved what they can do and so now we’re going to expect it daily. I think that one, it should give us confidence. Two, I think we know kind of where we are with rotations. An unfortunate injury kind of cleaned some things up. Now we’re really got to get lucky and stay healthy and go out and get these guys in a place where they can play good enough defense and we can find enough offense to keep going.”
Next up for the Huskers is a trip to Maryland for an 11 a.m. tip-off against the Terrapins on New Year’s Day. The Terps are 13-1 and opened Big Ten play with an 85-59 win against Illinois on Tuesday. They have wins over Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Georgetown and their sole loss was a 73-59 loss to Pittsburgh.
Maryland is scoring 76.8 points over game and giving up 64.8. The Terps are a top 15 team in terms of getting to the free-throw line but are only converting at a 71.5 percent rate once they do.
Melo Trimble is back for his junior season and is off to a tremendous start as a scorer, putting up 18.1 points on a 64.3 true shooting percentage. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard has scored 20 or more in each of his last three games and in eight out of 13 this season, including a career-high-tying 31-point performance in a win against Richmond. Trimble flirted with declaring for the nBA draft after both his freshman and sophomore season, but ultimately decided to return to College Park.
“It’s great to see,” Miles said. “I think it’s good for our league. I think it shows his faith in Coach [Mark] Turgeon and the Maryland program. When your name’s Melo, you kind of have this swag about you anyway, and I think that as you look at things, he’s the kind of guy that is a game-changer. I could see him going to the NBA [after this season] but I could see him staying in college just like anybody. But I think it’s really good for Maryland and our league but it’s really tough for the rest of us.”
For many of the top players in the country, college basketball has become nothing more than a necessary stepping stone to get to the NBA. Trimble hasn’t quite developed the way even he might have expected in terms of becoming a pro prospect. However, Miles said there is still something to be said for being a great college player.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a hell of a college career and that’s what he’s doing,” Miles said. “I think I would want to do it as long as possible because there’s always a chance that you don’t make it and end up missing out on a year or two of college.”
In addition to Trimble, the Terrapins feature a pair of talented freshman who are both averaging just over 10 points. Justin Jackson, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward is putting up 10.9 points and a team-best 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from 3-point range. Michael Cowan, a 6-foot-1 point guard, has allowed Trimble to slide over to his more natural shooting guard spot and is averaging 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and a team-high 3.9 assists while shooting 45.5 percent from the field.
The game will be televised on BTN.