Nebraska is coming off a tough loss at Minnesota on Monday night where the Huskers got off to a slow start than ran out of gas late as their comeback attempt fell short thanks to 36.8% shooting and 18 turnovers.
Unfortunately, because of conference rules, the Huskers won’t get to gather on the practice court on Tuesday to work through their issues ahead of Wednesday’s game against No. 21 Wisconsin. Nebraska has to take an off-day, which Coach Fred Hoiberg called “ridiculous.”
“It is what it is, so we’re going to have to prep for a top-20 team — the prep will be at shoot-around,” Hoiberg said. “It just puts you in a hell of a difficult position, but it is what it is. We’re going to play four games probably pretty much every week heading own the stretch here. We’re going to have a shoot around prep at least one of those games because of the rule.”
The Huskers will get two more one-day preps this week for games at home against No. 14 Illinois on Friday and at Penn State on Sunday before they finally get a small reprieve before next Wednesday’s game against Maryland (as the schedule currently stands). Fortunately, Hoiberg’s had plenty of experience with this kind of schedule thanks to his years in the NBA.
“It’s going to be very much like NBA-type preparation playing as many games as we are,” Hoiberg said. “It’s a true NBA schedule and it’s going to be a lot of mental preparation. I have talked to several coaches that have been through it and basically on their off day, it’s a film session and a walk-through and a clean-up. That’s what it’s going to be … We’ll still get some good quality practice in, especially when we have two days leading into it. If we take a day off, then we’ll practice, get them up and down. I’ve always tried to get our teams up and down after a day off; you have to to try to shake the rust off and get the timing right.
“We’ll still have some of those types of practices, but when it’s a true one-day prep like we’re going to have, especially when you go road to road, or if you go home to road, you have to be really cognizant of that and be careful of it.”
The lack of practice time hurts because the Huskers have plenty of issues to clean up based on their first two games back from the extended pause on team activities. The biggest of those is ball security, which Hoiberg expressed a great deal of frustration with after Monday’s game.
“The unfortunate thing when I look at it, we had nine turnovers in our last game against Indiana,” Hoiberg said. “We had eight against Michigan. We had nine against Wisconsin. Then these two games back, you go 17 against Michigan State, 18 tonight. You couple that with 16 offensive rebounds, you can’t give a team that many extra chances. We’re not good enough. We have a very fine margin to win these games and we’re not giving ourselves a chance with all these turnovers, and they’re mostly careless. Effort ones, fine, I’m OK with that if it’s an effort turnover. But it’s just mindless, mental mistakes that we need to correct and that I thought we were doing a better job of after a lot of games early where we had too many. If you have a negative assist-to-turnover ratio like we have, it’s tough to win.”
Six Huskers committed at least one foul with Dalano Banton and Shamiel Stevenson leading the way with five apiece while Trey McGowens and Derrick Walker added three each. Hoiberg talked about his team’s tendency to drive into a crowd rather than having patience and moving the ball until the driving lanes present themselves.
“We’ll go back and watch all of them,” Hoiberg said. “We’re going to watch all 18 probably the morning of the Wisconsin game, which will be a real positive thing leading into that game, but we’ve got to find a way to fix it. That to me is going to be as important as anything because when we share the ball and move it, generally we have good possessions.”
Hoiberg expected his team to shoot poorly early on based on what he heard from his son Jack (a walk-on at Michigan State) as well as what common sense would suggest after such a long layoff. But it’s going to be even more difficult to find a rhythm when you’re not even getting shots up at the rim.
Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the conference — and the country — so Nebraska can’t afford to give away possessions on Wednesday. The Badgers (14-6, 8-5 Big Ten) are surrendering 65.8 points per game in league contests.
Senior point guard D’Mitrik Trice has stepped his game up in Big Ten play and is leading the team at 13.8 points and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 38.1% from 3. Big man Micah Potter is the team’s other double-digit scorer at 12.1 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game. The Badgers are shooting 36.5% from 3 overall this season, but that figure has taken a dive in conference play down to 32.9%.
Despite a strong defensive start by the Huskers, Wisconsin won the first meeting 67-53 back on Dec. 22 as four Badgers scored in double figures led by senior guard Brad Davison with 15.
Wisconsin has split its last eight games and is coming off a 75-60 loss at Illinois. However, the Huskers (4-10) have lost 24 straight Big Ten contests including all seven this season.
“We’re still locked in mentally,” Lat Mayen said. “We just have to stick together and do what Coach says and try to execute. All we can do right now is just stick together and play for each other.”
Tipoff on Wednesday is set for 8:30 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.
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.