Run It Back: Nebraska-Kansas
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Run It Back: Nebraska-Kansas

December 11, 2016

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Saturday’s game at Kansas went about as expected for the Huskers.

The betting line was set around 20 and 20 was the deficit for most of the game. The Huskers played their typical scrappy style for much of the second half in particular and trimmed the lead a few times but never truly threatened Kansas. The Jayhawks were simply too talented for the Huskers to beat.

“I think they’re as good a team as we’ve seen,” Coach Tim Miles said. “We’ve seen some pretty good teams but they’re clearly a cut above.”

However, as ugly as it looked at times, it wasn’t all bad. The play of Nebraska’s five men, sophomore Ed Morrow Jr. and freshman Jordy Tshimanga, stood out as a positive.

Ed Morrow finished with 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds and two assists. The improvement in Morrow’s touch from where he was as a freshman – heck, from where he was at the start of this season too – is evident. He knocked down a jumper from the baseline, hit both his free throws and put home a few impressive jump hooks.

The next step for Morrow offensively is to improve his vision and understanding of his limitations. When Morrow tried to bully his way through a defender or go up in a crowd, it didn’t go well for Nebraska. At 6-foot-7, he’s just not going to be able to finish over any kind of size or length on a consistent enough basis. Keep using that footwork to set up that righty hook, big guy.

As for Tshimanga, it was far from perfect. He fumbled a couple of passes and rebounds that should have been his and picked up four fouls, including two on back-to-back possessions in the post against Kansas freshman Udoka Azubuike. He also had some ugly misses both around the basket and at the free-throw line, shooting 3-of-7 from the field and 4-of-7 from the stripe.

Even so, he scored a career-high 10 points and tied his career-high with eight rebounds. He got to the line almost as many times as he had in his first nine games combined through a combination of hard work and solid moves around the basket. Perhaps his most impressive play of the game was a drop-step into a lefty hook that he put in with a foul. Tshimanga also blocked two shots and is the only player on the team other than maybe Isaiah Roby who can offer any kind of meaningful rim protection.

“We finally got somebody of equal size,” Miles said. “He didn’t have to guard a four man or whatever like we’ve seen on some of these guys … He showed he can compete with high, high level of competition. As we get Isaiah Roby up to speed and he quits beating himself up, Isaiah’s harder on himself than he is anybody. As we get those guys going, those two guys can help us too.”

Speaking of Roby, he continues to offer glimpses of his potential in between long stretches of looking like a true freshman. The 6-foot-8 swingman dished out two assists in just 13 minutes and recovered against a guard to block the shot at the rim after getting blown by.

However, he went 0-of-4 from the field and really ins’t giving the Huskers anything offensively. He often looks uncomfortable or uncertain with the ball in his hands, and missed a couple close shots he has to convert.

Tai Webster scored a game-high 22 points, but what struck me about his performance is how difficult it was for him to get those points. Webster shot 9-of-20 from the field and there were two or three defenders round the senior on many of his attempts. Webster has become a very solid player, but he needs help and Glynn Watson Jr. fouling out in 29 minutes with five points, one assist and there turnovers certainly isn’t that.

At the end of the day, you’re never going to win when your opponent shoots 20 percent better than you do, and that’s what happened on Saturday as Kansas shot 59.6 percent to Nebraska’s 39.4. The defense in the first half (they gave up 54 points) was as much of a problem as the offense was all game long.

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