The Nebraska basketball team is halfway through the Big Ten season and most of the players on the team are dealing with some degree of injury or illness.
However, after a day off to rest and recuperate after Nebraska’s 83-80 win against No. 20 Purdue on Sunday, the Huskers returned to the practice floor on Tuesday to begin preparing to host Michigan State on Thursday.
“I thought the guys were very alert to what’s going on with Michigan State,” Coach Tim Miles said. “They’re very alert to what caused us problems against Purdue and why we were able to come back and win. I thought their attentiveness was really, really good. The things is they’re more encouraged. Any time you get a win you just feel better.”
Miles said that senior guard Tai Webster practiced fully and will be fine for Thursday’s game after rolling his ankle down the stretch against Purdue. Michael Jacobson, who played through illness against the Boilermakers, got a full night’s sleep for the first time in a while and appears to be feeling better, per Miles. Freshman center Jordy Tshimanga, who earned his first start against Purdue, is also banged up.
“Today he was limited in his reps,” Miles said. “We’ve been limiting him for a while. He’s nursing a bruised foot too, so we’re just keeping an eye on that.”
As for sophomore forward Ed Morrow Jr., who has missed the last five games with a stress reaction in his foot, Miles did not have much of an update – he’s a game-time decision.
“Ed practiced some today; we’ll see how his foot feels tomorrow,” was all Miles had to offer.
When pressed about how Morrow has looked it practice, Miles responded: “He’s a handsome kid, man. He’s got a lot going for him.”
The Spartans will come to Lincoln sporting a 13-9 record and are 5-4 in Big Ten play. They’ve been depleted by injuries this season and four of their top five scorers are freshmen.
“They’re very young,” Miles said. “You talk about injuries, I don’t think even with the guys they don’t have and then Miles Bridges being hurt for six or seven games, whatever it was, hurt them at the time. But he’s come back very strong. They’re great in transition. They’re so fast down the floor. They can hurt you. They get you a lot of different ways. In the games where Miles plays they’re really good on the glass. They’re good inside.
“Just like Purdue, they make you make decisions on how you’re going to handle Nick Ward, how you’re going to handle Miles Bridges, what about the guards like Eron Harris and then they’ve got a speed demon like Tum-Tum Nairn, they’ve got a shooter like [Joshua] Langford, a playmaker like Cassius Winston. They’ve got a lot of weapons. They’re young though and so young guys often aren’t as consistent as you’d want them to be. But if there’s one guy in the world you want coaching them, it’s Tom Izzo.”
The Huskers have won three straight against the Spartans, but Miles isn’t about to say he’s discovered the secret to defeating Michigan State.
“We got lucky because we had players just go off,” Miles said. “[Terran] Petteway went off on them, Shavon [Shields] went off on them. They caught us on a hot day here on Avery [Strong] Day.”
Thursday will be a special occasion as well as Nebraska is retiring former Husker and NBA player and current Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue’s jersey.
“I’ve watched some old tape on Tyronn Lue and he was so fun to watch, so quick, got separation,” Miles said. “Man, I could have gotten that guy a lot more points than Danny Nee did … He was really a guy that was a special player.”
Miles said Lue means a great deal to the program as a whole as well as the current players and coaches.
“He’s a winner; I think he proved that as he went through in the NBA and won two championships as a player, one as a coach at a very young age as a coach,” Miles said. “So it’s very impressive. He talks the talk and he walks the walk. When he made the Hall of Fame in 2012, he went to our players and gave everybody his cell number and his personal email address and said reach out any time you want. When Terran Petteway was struggling with his mother’s illness and not playing as well as he hoped to play, he texted me and got Terran’s number to reach out to him, asked me if he could. I said absolutely.
“He really cares about Nebraska. He really cares about the success of our program. We’re very fortunate to have been lucky enough where we can include him with the Hall of Fame, he came back for a football game, and then of course retiring his jersey, what a special honor for him but also a well-deserved honor for him too.”
Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. on Thursday and the game will be televised on ESPN. Lue’s jersey will join those of Stuart Lantz, Dave Hoppen and Eric Piatkowski in the rafters during a halftime ceremony at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
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.