Run It Back: Consistency Remains a Persistent Issue for Huskers
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Run It Back: Consistency Remains a Persistent Issue for Huskers

January 16, 2018

Hectic. Chaotic.

Those are the words sophomore forward Isaiah Roby used to describe Nebraska’s 64-63 win against Illinois on Monday.

The game included two separate four-point plays (including one in the last 10 seconds), an off-balance game-winning 3 and multiple air-balls from both teams. The Huskers forced 16 Illinois turnovers (converting them into 24 points) but allowed 18 offensive rebounds (which the Illini turned into 14 points). 

At the end of the night, however, Nebraska came out on top thanks to James Palmer Jr.’s heroics. Palmer’s game-winner and 24 points drew the headlines, but Roby himself played a huge role in this game and had a hand in creating that chaos as well.

Roby started for the first time this season and played a career-high 35 minutes., stuffing the stat sheet in the process. The 6-foot-8 swingman playing mostly center finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and four steals (a career-high).

His most impressive play didn’t even directly result in a statistic of any kind, as Roby put his 40-plus inch vertical on display while nearly dunking on the 6-foot-10 Michael Finke during the second half. 

Earlier in the half, the 6-foot-6 Palmer deflected a pass toward the sideline and Roby sprinted after it from near the top of the key, diving out of bounds and tipping it back towards the center of the court leading to a breakaway finish for senior Evan Taylor. 

On another play, Roby switched onto Illinois point guard Trent Frazier, kept him in front and blocked Frazier’s 3-point attempt.

These are just three of many plays from this game that displayed Roby’s length, athleticism and hustle. His defensive versatility and impact, both in man-to-man and in Nebraska's 1-3-1 zone, wreaks havoc on opposing offenses when he's locked in and not in foul trouble.

Roby's skill level and coordination are still a work in progress. He’s a capable ball-handler and passer but is still a bit too turnover-prone (three of them against Illinois) and his shot has improved but isn’t consistent yet. As he continues to polish up those skills, the sky is the limit.

Illinois was the perfect situation for Roby to start and play extended minutes at the five, however, as their bigs are mostly under-sized or perimeter-oriented. The Illini don’t have a true post threat.

Thursday’s opponent, Michigan, features another perimeter big in 6-foot-11 Moritz Wagner who is shooting 42.4 percent on nearly four 3-point attempts per game. Roby’s length and mobility could be valuable against the big German’s shooting. However, Nebraska will need more from its true posts (zero points, rebounds and blocks in a combined nine minutes for Tanner Borchardt and Duby Okeke against Illinois) against the likes of Ohio State, Rutgers and Iowa. Jordy Tshimanga’s return to the team gives another option as well.

Nebraska also can’t rely on 24 points from Palmer (one shy of his career-high) or 13 points from Taylor (who had totaled just 17 in his first six Big Ten games and was moved to the bench against Illinois) every game. As Coach Tim Miles has said on a handful of occasions, they have to get their main scorers playing well at the same time.

Nebraska’s second, third and fourth-leading scorers (Isaac Copeland, Glynn Watson Jr. and Anton Gill) combined for 14 points on 4-of-15 (2-of-10 from 3) shooting against the Illini.

We are now 20 games into the season and while this roster has proven itself full of play-makers and a higher talent level than in years past, the Huskers still haven’t put it all together with anything close to consistency. The fact that the Huskers needed a miracle game-winner to beat an Illinois team that still hasn’t won a conference game does not bode well for the future. Next up for the Huskers is a two-game stretch against the Wolverines and Buckeyes who are a combined 11-2 in the Big Ten. 

Palmer, Watson, Roby and Copeland is a tremendous core that should give Nebraska the chance to compete with any team on its schedule the rest of the way — IF they are playing well. For Watson in particular, it’s now-or-never time to get things figured out.

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