With Christmas break—and all the holiday food that comes with it—firmly in the rearview mirror, the Huskers got back on the practice floor this week to prepare for their final nonconference game on Sunday.
The action wasn’t all that pretty early on, as one might expect coming off a break.
“It’s always sloppy,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I’ve been around enough of these to where they’re going to go throw the ball into the third row and kick the ball all over the place. You just have to try to run everything out of them, the things that they did when they get home. Going home obviously, holiday season, eating a lot of high-quality meals, and you’ve got to come and try to sweat all that stuff out. That’s what last night was, it was a ton of shooting, a lot of running, a lot of going through the offense. Today we went out and had a full scrimmage with our team.”
Hoiberg said after Nebraska’s 75-74 loss to North Dakota last Saturday that the following couple of days were going to be painful, but after reviewing the film his evaluation of the Huskers’ effort changed a bit.
“When you go back and watch, generally it’s not as good or as bad as you think it is,” Hoiberg said. “I thought our energy, actually, was pretty good, but when you have the body language the way it was, it has more of an appearance of a lack of energy. I didn’t give North Dakota enough credit the other night for the way they came out. They answered every run we had, hit tough shots.
“We had a couple good possessions defensively at the end, we actually had a couple good block-outs and got a little unlucky on the airball that went right to their hands and the other one that they ended up getting, we put a body on them but couldn’t come up with the ball. Those things tend to happen when you’re not out there and you pull apart a little bit during the course of the game when the adversity hits. Those things happen. It wasn’t so much a matter of how we came out and played as far as an energy standpoint, it was more a matter of sticking together through the tough times.”
The loss to the Fighting Hawks, Nebraska’s third buy-game loss of the season, was even more painful for Hoiberg considering it came after a strong showing by Nebraska in its early Big Ten games, an overtime loss at Indiana and a home win over Purdue. Hoiberg said he had thought they turned the corner a bit, but the Huskers reverted to their early-season selves against North Dakota.
“It certainly showed with those two games, at Indiana and the Purdue game that we found a way to win, those were two examples of what we’re capable of,” Hoiberg said. “When you go out there and play the right way and play together for 40 minutes, those types of things happen. You give yourself a chance against very good opponents. When you go out there and you don’t stick together, obviously which has happened to our team this year, you see what happens the other way with some early games and then we kind of went back to that the other night against North Dakota.
“It’s about going out and handling success. That is a concern when you have your first really good, quality win against a Big Ten opponent, maybe you listen to the noise a little bit. People are saying a lot of really good things about our team and our players. It’s like a tough loss—you can’t read into that and see the negative comments that are being made. Same thing when you have a big win, you just have to stay focused on what you need to do to get better and what we did to play better and continue to move in that direction. Again, I was worried about a lot of things in that game: the end of finals, guys going home. We’ve been talking since day one about how this team will handle adversity and we just did not handle it well the other night.”
The Huskers are sitting at 5-7 on the season and will close out the nonconference against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday afternoon. The Islanders are 4-8 this season with two wins over Texas-Rio Grande Valley, one win over a Division II school and another over a Division III team. However, they’ve also played close games against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.
Five Islanders are shooting better than 36% from 3 led by Jordan Hairston at 52.2% on 3.8 attempts and 9.5 points per game. Male Smith leads the team in scoring at 16.7 per game and 41% shooting from 3. Jashawn Talton, a 6-foot-5 guard, is second in scoring at 12.7 points per game and first in rebounding at 7.4 boards per contest.
Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be televised on BTN with Chris Vosters and Nick Bahe on the call.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.