Coach Tim Miles has talked extensively about the crisis of confidence his team is facing in the midst of its six-game losing streak. The Huskers just posted a record-low field goal percentage since moving into Pinnacle Bank Arena in a 60-45 loss to Maryland and now they’re getting ready to head to No. 15 Purdue.
“The guys worked really hard the last two days,” Miles said. “It’s a huge, short turnaround, obviously. What was cool to see was yesterday after practice, about four guys stayed and played one-on-one afterwards. That’s kind of the essence of how you grew up playing, your love for the game and stuff like that. I think that’s one thing — we have to find a little bit of joy in this, in the journey and the fight.”
The Huskers have competed defensive during the losing streak, holding teams to 68.2 points per game and 43.1 percent shooting, but they can’t seem to buy a bucket of any kind. Nebraska is scoring 58.8 points per game and shooting 32.8 percent from the field in the last six.
“It hasn’t been very joyful,” Miles continued. “But at the end of the day, these are the most important days of your life as a college athlete. There are very few things in life they tell you can only do for four years. You can drive a car for as long as you want, you can do this, do that — if you’re in Dolan [South Dakota] you start driving at about age 10 — but you can only play basketball for four years, so I want it to be a good four, a fun four. We’ve got to discover some of that joy … We have to enjoy the fight and the battle. When you’re mired in a losing streak, it just feels like that; it feels like you’re sloshing around in the mud. And you have to be able to dust yourself off, pull your bootstraps up and go get ‘em.”
After the loss to Maryland, senior point guard Glynn Watson Jr. was out on the court getting shots up with a couple of managers rebounding for him. Watson went scoreless in the game and missed all 10 of his shots.
“Glynn just needs to clear his mind and play … Glynn’s fine,” Miles said. “What it says about him is, one, you see his integrity and how much he cares. He got the managers, this was all self-driven. Nobody wants it worse, and sometimes that works against you. I’m excited to get him up here in front of you guys and help flush everything out and get this thing going in the right direction.”
Watson said he still feels like the Huskers can get things turned around; they just need to get a win under their belt to gain back the confidence they had in themselves and each other.
“Just going out there with nothing to lose,” Watson said. “We dug ourselves a little hole but I feel like we can dig ourselves out. I think we’ve just got to go play together. That’s really what it is, playing together and believing in each other.”
The loss of Isaac Copeland Jr. during the streak has certainly played a big part in the offensive struggles, but the issues extend beyond missing one of the team’s best scorers. The Huskers can’t seem to get going from anywhere on the court.
“Sometimes you know going into the year, like, ‘Hey, we’re going to hit some struggles,’” Miles said. “I always knew the 3-point shooting might be there, but when it drains into your 3-point shooting, your free throws, your practice, it’s like a virus and you’ve just got to flush it out of your system.”
To do that, Miles said the team is focused on the little things in practice, polishing up the way they go about their business. One area he mentioned specifically is the team’s passing; an off-target pass does as much to disrupt a team’s offensive flow as a deflection by the defense and Nebraska has had way too many bad passes that have prevented the Huskers from getting off open looks.
“We just have to go out there and play together, play as a team, have fun and get back going,” Watson said. “That’s all it’s going to take. After we get back going and have confidence with each other, I think everything will get clicking again.”
The Huskers will try to get things clicking again on the road as they head to West Lafayette for Saturday’s game against the Boilermakers. Purdue has won seven straight games and 10 of its last 11 after getting off to a 6-5 start.
Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Carsen Edwards is the headliner for the Boilermakers, but senior guard Ryan Cline has really come on strong this season as well and is shooting over 50 percent form 3 in Big Ten play.
“How about Ryan Cline just shooting it up too? Those two guys are really going,’ Miles said. “Carsen’s a nightmare. You can do everything right and he still scores. So you’ve just got to realize make it hard for him, make it as hard as you can for him.”
Edwards, a 6-foot-1 junior, is putting up a conference-best 24.5 points per game while shooting 37.6 percent on 10.3 3-point attempts per game.
“He’s going to get his shots up,” Watson said. “We’ve got to contain him and make other guys beat us. We can’t have him getting hot. But he’s their main player so we know they’re going to run lot of things for him. We’ve just got to make sure we show him bodies and contest shots.”
Purdue’s next-leading scorer is 7-foot-2 center Matt Haarms at 8.0 points per game in just under 20 minutes per game, and he is now coming off the bench for the Boilermakers.
Tipoff in West Lafayette is set for 7:30 p.m. on BTN with Kevin Kugler and Jon Crispin on the call.
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.