Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Huskers Looking to Find Touch, Iron Out Offensive Tweaks in Final Nonconference Game

December 21, 2021

Fred Hoiberg said he thought Sunday’s game against Kansas State was going to be the one that opened the floodgates for Nebraska from the perimeter. The Huskers hit five of their first 10 3-pointers and jumped out to a 25-15 lead against the Wildcats.

Then the Huskers missed their final 18 3-point attempts and Kansas State surged ahead to hand Nebraska its fifth-straight loss.

“Not one person on our team right now, I can promise you, is satisfied with the way they’re shooting the ball, every single person to a man,” Hoiberg said. “They’re putting in work. Right before I went to my radio show the other night, we had a bunch of guys in there getting up shots, continuing to work on ending their slumps. I know I’ve been saying this all year, but I am confident that we will make shots at some point. I thought the other night was the night when we started out 5-for-10 and took great shots. I thought that was the night where we were going to take the lid off and have a double-digit 3-point shooting effort and it didn’t happen.”

Nebraska (5-7) is currently 353rd in the country in 3-point percentage at 25.2%. The Huskers don’t have a single player clearing the 33% mark; C.J. Wilcher is leading the way at 32.7% on 4.6 attempts per game.

“I never in a million years would have thought that would be our issue with our team,” Hoiberg said. “I had other concerns, but not shooting. So just continue to work, that’s all you can do. When I was a player, the only way I could get out of it, out of my head, was to continue to get reps. But it’s a miserable feeling. I’m telling you from experience, it is a miserable feeling when you know you can make them and they’re just not going in during the game. So just keep working, keep grinding and eventually they’ll fall.”

The Huskers have missed. A lot of good, open looks this season, but they’e also taken a number of bad shots that have contributed to the team’s extended scoring droughts. Hoiberg said on the Nebraska Men’s Basketball Show on Monday’s edition of Sports Nightly that he’s going to start having a quicker trigger with pulling players for bad shots.

“I put up on the board specific points on what is a good shot and what’s a bad shot,” Hoiberg said. “We watched every single one of them on the film. It’s not just the 3s, the step-back 3s. It’s the step-back mid-range. We were 1-for-13 in the mid-range the other day, Keisei [Tominaga] being the only one hitting a mid-range shot on a possession that hit the paint first. So we must improve and the way to improve is pulling guys when they’re taking those shots. We’ve done it on some shots. I need to do it on all shots, to get guys out of the lineup when they’re taking those. Rushed, contested shots are killing us right now.”

To help facilitate better shot selection and generate more efficient offense, Hoiberg made some tweaks to his system heading into the Kansas State game. However, he ran into a hiccup as Derrick Walker missed practice time with a knee injury, which followed a week where the Huskers had to deal with a non-COVID-19 illness that affected all but three players on the team. With so little time to get used to the changes, little changed with the final result against the Wildcats as Nebraska mustered just 58 points.

“I had a couple of good opportunities these last two days to clean up some of the mistakes that we made, seeing it for the first time in the game,” Hoiberg said. “We’ll get another good week after the game tomorrow once the guys get back from their break, to clean it up even further. One of the key parts to the offense is getting Derrick more involved and Derrick, as I said, missed both days of practice before the game the other night, just his knee was bothering him a little bit out there. So that threw the timing off, I would say, a little bit, and then the pressure Kansas State applied to us.”

Hoiberg said he hasn’t completely overhauled his system; rather, players are just in different spots, especially the frontcourt players. The four is now the designated in-bounder and trail guy rather than the five passing the ball in and rim-running. Hoiberg wants to generate more scoring opportunities on the block for Walker, who is shooting 78.6% from the field on just 4.7 attempts per game. Hoiberg said it’s going to take a bit for players to become comfortable with their new responsibilities.

“We had two great stretches — the first 12 minutes and then that first section of the second half where we outscored them by double figures in in both of those sections of the game,” Hoiberg said. “Now, the key moving forward is to be more consistent with it, continue to do the things that made us successful out there during those stretches. Again, the cleanup was good, good opportunity. We watched a lot of film, had a long meeting yesterday and now we have to carry it over on the floor.”

Only eight players saw the poor against the Wildcats, but Hoiberg said that wasn’t the plan going in. With Wilhelm Breidenbach sidelined, Hoiberg identified two players who should get a chance to see the floor to provide depth.

“Trevor [Lakes] and Keon [Edwards], both are guys that are going to see minutes moving forward,” Hoiberg said. “Exactly when, I don’t know. But you’ve just always have to be ready and when your name is called, go out and try to make a winning impact on your team.”

The Huskers will get one more chance before the holiday break to implement their tweaks and try to get back in the win column as Kennesaw State (4-7) visits Lincoln on Wednesday for the final game of the nonconference slate.

“We’ve just got to keep keep grinding, hopefully play well tomorrow against a good team,” Hoiberg said. “This team has been very impressive and played Iowa State very close, they had a double-digit lead against Creighton in the second half. I’ve been really impressed with this team. We’ve got to come out, put our hard hat on because they’re going to play as hard as any team that we face so far.”

Chris Youngblood, a 6-foot-4, 212-pound sophomore, is leading the Owls with 13.5 points per game on 46.9% shooting 38.7% from 3) and 5.4 rebounds per game. Junior Terrell Burden (5-foot-10, 160 pounds) and senior Spencer Rodgers (6-foot-4, 178 pounds) are also scoring in double figures, averaging 12.0 and 11.0 points, respectively. Burden is also dishing out 4.5 assists per game.

Tipoff on Wednesday is set for 6:35 p.m. CT on ESPNU with Mark Neely and Robbie Hummel on the call.

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