Tuesday’s game at No. 9 Maryland ended the same way as Nebraska’s previous eight — with a loss for the Huskers. However, after a couple of rough outings against Penn State and Iowa, Nebraska rebounded to take the Terrapins down to the wire in a 72-70 loss.
“I thought our energy coming out of the gate in the second half was exactly where it needed to be,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The thing that I really liked with our group is just how upbeat they were, especially at halftime. They were talking to each other, they were talking about wha we had to do to come out and get back into the game. That’s exactly what we did — we kept chipping away, got that thing down to a couple possessions. They got it back to 10 and we just kept going. Offensively, I thought it was as good a half as we’ve had because of the movement and playing simple basketball. When we did that, we got a lot of things accomplished.”
With Nebraska sitting at 7-16 on he season, a postseason bid is off the table barring a miracle run in the Big Ten Tournament. Even so, Hoiberg said the Huskers still have plenty to play for down the stretch of the season.
“We’re playing for pride,” Hoiberg said. “We’re playing to build habits for the future. We’re playing for our fans. It’s important to come out and hopefully establish something here these last four games in our building. Our fans have been phenomenal all year long and these guys are going to continue to go out there and battle. I know that. It’s what I’ve seen for the most part. Penn State was a disappointing second half, but you look at what Penn State’s doing to a lot of teams right now — they’re just steam-rolling people. And then the second half against Iowa was a disaster. But to bounce back the way we did against the team that’s No. 1 in our league, No. 9 in the nation on the road, it’s a great sign that the guys are continuing to come in here and fight and battle and I anticipate we’ll do that again tomorrow.”
The Huskers will get a second crack at Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon after falling in Madison 82-68 back in January. The Badgers hit a school-record 18 3-pointers on 34 attempts in that game, but Nebraska is still focusing on Wisconsin’s duo of Nate Reuvers (13.6 points per game) and Micah Potter (9.1 points per game) inside. The Badgers are 14-10 overall and 7-6 in Big Ten play and have wins over Michigan State and Ohio State this month.
“They’re playing well right now,” senior Haanif Cheatham said. “They’ve got good guards, they’ve got a good big down low. I think we’ve just got to pack the paint. They’re going to hit shots here and there but I think if we contest shots and show that we’re there it could affect some shots.”
In the four games the Badgers played after shooting the lights out against Nebraska, Wisconsin shot 30-of-108 (27.8%). However, they did shoot 12-of-32 in their last game.
“They obviously shot the ball extremely well,” Hoiberg said about the first meeting. “Making 18 3s, they got it going and played with a ton of confidence. We made some mistakes on some of those. We went back and watched all of them that next morning and watched a lot of them again today as far as trying to prevent some of those things that happened the first time we played them. But they hit some contested ones as well and give them credit for the way they came out and shot the ball.”
Wisconsin will look a little different this time around as sophomore guard Kobe King, the team’s leading scorer in conference play, left the team a couple of weeks ago and has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal. He was averaging 10.0 points per game overall this season but had bumped that up to 12.6 in Big Ten play.
Nebraska was without a double-digit scorer of its own against Maryland on Tuesday as junior guard Dachon Burke Jr. missed the game with an illness. Hoiberg Friday was Burke’s first practice since he got sick on Monday.
“He’s still pretty run-down,” Hoiberg said. “This is the first time he’s done anything since the illness the day before we played Maryland. He dropped a lot of weight. We’ll see how he responds to this practice.”
Hoiberg said they won’t determine Burke’s status until Saturday morning. Jervay Green started in Burke’s place against Maryland, but he wasn’t the only new starter. Freshman Kevin Cross Jr. started at the five in place of fellow freshman Yvan Ouedraogo, and Hoiberg said that will be the case on Saturday as well.
“He got off to a tough start offensively but he kept with hit and hit a huge  for us to cut it to four and then we got the turnover on the next possession,” Hoiberg said. “Kevin opens things up for us a little bit on the offensive end with his ability to space the floor and open up some driving lanes.”
Cross finished with five points on 2-of-10 shooting in 24 minutes against the Terps. Ouedraogo gave Nebraska good minutes off the bench with seven points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.
“I thought Yvan played very well off the bench,” Hoiberg said. “I thought that was Yvan’s best game in a while, going out there and he just made simple plays, made all three of his baskets, rebounded the ball well and defended.”
Saturday’s game will also be the eighth annual Husker Legends weekend where former players from throughout the program’s history return to Lincoln. This year’s weekend will bring nearly 50 players spanning six decades back to campus.
“I’m excited for Legends Weekend,” Hoiberg said. “I’m excited to meet a lot of the players that will be in attendance tomorrow, get a chance to speak with them after the game i’m excited to see some of the players that played for my grandfather and hear some of the stories that they have about him. I think there are five of them in attendance that were either managers for my grandfather or played for my grandfather. I’m really excited about that and it’s going to be very good. It’s going to be very well attended and I’m just really looking forward to meeting a lot of players tat have played in a Husker uniform.”
Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena is set for 1:15 p.m. CT. Chris Vosters and Shon Morris will call the game on BTN.
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.