Run it Back: Groundhog Day with Wisconsin
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Run it Back: Groundhog Day with Wisconsin

February 11, 2017

“Groundhog Day.”

Those are the words of a friend of mine in the Nebraska basketball program after the Huskers’ 70-69 overtime loss to Wisconsin on Thursday night.

Nebraska has lost eight of its last nine games, and three of them have been by one point. The Huskers keep finding new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

The previous two one-point losses came against two of the teams near the bottom of the conference in Rutgers and Ohio State. Wisconsin, however, is sitting atop the Big Ten with one conference loss and the Huskers were one or two plays away from handing them their second.

The game itself was far from pretty basketball. There were 47 fouls and 47 field goals in 45 minutes. But there were a couple positives to take away in the midst of another rough season.

The biggest of those was the return of Ed Morrow Jr. The sophomore forward had been sidelined for the previous seven games while dealing with a stress reaction in his foot a year after seeing his freshman season derailed by another foot injury.

Morrow played 26 minutes and finished with a team-best 13 rebounds to go with five points, one assist and a steal. More importantly, Morrow said after the game that he feels even better than he expected.

However, there was definitely some rust he has to work off. Morrow shot 2-of-7 from the field and 1-of-5 at the foul line and turned the ball over five times, most of which came when he tried to put the ball on the deck. Morrow turned the ball over late in regulation and missed two key free throws in overtime when Nebraska could have given itself a chance to seal the game.

One of the other highlights was the performance of freshman forward Isaiah Roby. Roby’s performance — and playing time — has been up and down all season, but on Thursday he made his presence felt right away when he stepped onto the floor.

The 6-foot-8 swing-man finished with four points on 2-of-5 shooting, eight rebounds including six on offense, three blocks and two steals before fouling out in 15 minutes. Roby was all over the court making plays with his length.

He is still learning how to finish at the basket against major college competition, but that will come with a full offseason (which he didn’t get this year) and more time in the weight room. But the two buckets he did score were impressive. First, midway through the second half, Tai Webster drove the lane and lobbed the ball up. It looked like Roby was far enough out that he’d have to catch the ball, come down then elevate again for the finish, but instead he soared all the way to the rim for an emphatic alley-oop. Later, Roby stole the ball and took it coast-to-coast for a layup that put the Huskers up for the first time in the game with five minutes to play.

I think Nebraska fans will truly enjoy watching Roby develop over the next few years; he’s going to be special.

Second chance offense has been a major focus for the Huskers, and against Wisconsin Nebraska out-rebounded Wisconsin 20-15 on the offensive end and 50-37 overall. However, Wisconsin won the battle of second chance points 13-7. That’s a lot of offensive rebounds that did not result in points. After finishing well the last few games, freshman Jordy Tshimanga regressed a bit and went 2-of-8 from the field — all right around the rim. Tshimanga and Morrow combined for eight offensive rebounds by themselves but made just four shots between them.

Glynn Watson Jr. also played 38 minutes and looked like his normal self one game after a groin injury limited him to 18 minutes off the bench. Watson looked quick and shifty and scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. However, he only dished out three assists to two turnovers. Watson has finished with two or fewer assists in five out of their 12 Big Ten games and has had just three in four more. His high in the Big Ten this year is five at Northwestern.

At Wednesday’s press conference prior to the Wisconsin game, Miles said making more plays for others is one way Watson can make a leap as a player, and I could not agree more (in fact, I’ve been saying that for at least the last month or so). Webster has almost become the default point guard for Nebraska, and while he is a good playmaker, that’s a lot of responsibility for a guy who also has to be the team’s leading scorer and top defender while playing more minutes than anyone else.

Nebraska needs more out of Glynn Watson Jr., and that “more” isn’t “More shots.”

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