To be fair, a great deal of that had to do with Glynn Watson Jr. being limited by a groin injury suffered against Purdue that kept him out of the starting lineup and limited him to 18 minutes in Iowa City. Watson finished 0-of-4 from the field and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line.
Senior Tai Webster finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists, but he shot 6-of-18 from the field including 0-of-6 from deep. Webster’s perimeter shot has fallen off considerably since the first month of the season where he shot 40 percent. In Big Ten play, he is shooting 27.8 percent and isn’t exactly making it easy on himself with some of the shots he’s taking. He’s down to 48 percent inside the arc as well.
Webster’s growth has been tremendous and he’s turned himself into a very good college basketball player, but he’s not the kind of player that can carry a team. To be effective with his strengths, Webster needs a strong supporting cast that prevents teams from taking away driving lanes so easily. In Nebraska’s 13 losses, Webster is shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 28.8 percent from 3, and he has just seven more assists than turnovers.
Without Ed Morrow – and now mostly without Watson – Nebraska just doesn’t have enough offensive threats to keep teams honest. In his last four games, Webster has 84 points on 89 shots. On Sunday against Iowa, Webster settled for a lot of bad jumpers and had a few out-of-control drives that led to shot attempts he had no chance of converting.
On the bright side, Jack McVeigh – who started in place of Watson – continued his strong stretch of play. McVeigh led the Huskers with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, and he scored in a variety of ways.
Jacobson attacked a pair of closeouts and finished with a driving hook shot, one with each hand. He knocked down an elbow jumper. He hit two 3-pointers. But he didn’t just score. McVeigh also took a charge in transition, grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Michael Jacobson for a jump hook and blocked a shot. His 3-point percentage was hurt by a couple of desperation air-balls late, but he has still been shooting very well in Big Ten play and is now starting to impact the game in other ways as well.
Jordy Tshimanga continued his strong play with 6 of Nebraska’s first 10 points and 10 total points on 4-of-6 shooting to go with eight rebounds (five on the offensive end), an assist and a steal in just 18 minutes. However, fouling continues to be a problem, especially on the offensive end. It seems like Tshimanga picks up at least one or two fouls per game fighting for post position on offense. Not only do those kinds of fouls eliminate his margin for error on defense, but it counts as a turnover for a team that needs every possession it can get.
Part of Tshimanga fouling out is on Miles, however. I’m normally in favor of letting players stay on the court despite foul trouble, but in Tshimanga’s case, he’s just too inexperienced. After Tshimanga got whistled for his second foul fighting off position on offense, Miles left him out there and Iowa immediately put him in a pick-and-roll and he committed his third. At that point, Miles needs to pull him, even if it isn’t for the rest of the half. Get him out of the minds of the officials and the opponent. Nebraska was still right in the game at that point.
On the bright side, when Tshimanga committed his third and then Michael Jacobson (who had a solid game with nine points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes) got called for his second, Miles turned to the seldom-used Nick Fuller, and the junior made an impact.
Fuller immediately got set and took a charge, then faked a hand-off and caught everyone off-guard by taking it to the basket himself for a layup, and later he pulled down a contested rebound.
Even if Ed Morrow Jr. doesn’t return soon, if the frontcourt can maintain this level of play, Watson can get healthy and McVeigh and freshman Jeriah Horne can continue to knock down a few 3-pointers, the Huskers will have a chance to compete. But they need a complete team effort at this point because in their depleted state, they simply won’t be able to keep up otherwise.