More schedules adjustments have created another busy week for Fred Hoiberg and the Huskers.
The Huskers will now face three teams this week they’ve already played in Penn State on Tuesday, Illinois on Thursday and Minnesota on Saturday. The Huskers will then turn around and start off next week by playing Rutgers at home on Monday, giving Nebraska four games in the next seven days.
“We don’t have much time to get out on the floor and correct,” Hoiberg said. “We had yesterday off. Today we did get them up and down a bit, but you can tell there is still some fatigue and I’ve got to find a way to keep them fresh where they have legs on the floor in those 40 minutes. It’s going to take a full effort from everybody.”
The starting unit struggled mightily in Nebraska’s loss to Purdue on Saturday, but the reserves stepped up and kept the Huskers in the game through the first 30 or so minutes. Hoiberg stuck with a lineup of four bench players plus Trey McGowens to open the second half, but Hoiberg isn’t planning on any lineup changes soon Tuesday.
“As of right now, we’ll start the same way going into the next one,” Hoiberg said. “As I said after the game the other night, for the most part our starters have gotten us off to good starts. The last game that obviously was not the case and we made changes right away and the bench went out and I thought was phenomenal. Some of that may be due to a little bit of the fatigue that we have going on with our team right now, but I thought that bench deserved to start the second half of that game and played really good basketball all the way through.”
Hoiberg said he saw a lot of good execution from the starting group down the stretch, they just couldn’t get any shots to fall despite generating some better looks than the ones they were getting earlier in the game.
Nebraska is going to have to hit those shots on Tuesday if they hope to sweep the season series against Penn State. The Nittany Lions have lost four straight and are 7-12 overall including 4-11 in Big Ten play, but they gave Iowa a fight on Sunday in a 74-68 loss.
“I thought Penn State was phenomenal yesterday against Iowa,” Hoiberg said. “I really thought they battled them — it’s what they do, the effort that they play with. Looking back at the first time we played them, we had 32 really good minutes of basketball and found a way to continue to defend when we were having our struggles on the offensive end of that floor, and that’s what allowed us to get the win at their place. We now they’re going to come in and battle and fight. Jim Ferry’s done a terrific job with this group continuing to get them to go out and compete.”
Back on Feb. 14, Nebraska controlled the action for much of the game until an extended scoring drought allowed the Nittany Lions to claw their way back and take a late lead before Teddy Allen’s game-winner.
“We watched an edit on it this morning, some of the things that we did well throughout the course of that game, especially early, and then some of the things that we struggled with late and some of the things that they did defensively to us that they switched up from what they did to us in the first half and how they’re going to counter that this time when we go out and play them,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously they’ll do the same, it’s what you do when you play the same team in a short time span like we are with this one.”
Lat Mayen said the Huskers spent a lot of time in practice preparing to face some of the zone and three-quarter-court pressure looks the Nittany Lions used to disrupt Nebraska’s offense and get back into the game. The Huskers are focusing on staying locked in mentally, and effort has been a big point of emphasis as well.
“Penn State, they play hard; that’s what they’re known for,” Mayen said. “We’ve just got to come out and match their energy or even better. We’ve just got to play harder than we did the first game and hopefully we can take the win again.”
Hoiberg has seen a lot of things that he likes from his team over the last several games, but in order to add to their win column they’re going to have to put those positives together in a complete effort.
“We defended maybe as well as we have all year in those last 10 minutes against Penn State, Hoiberg said. “The effort and consistency at Illinois was as good as it’s been all year. Indiana before the shutdown may have been our most complete offensive game from start to finish. It would be nice to get a little rhythm, momentum. The 40 minutes that I talk about all the time, the consistency of where were are and what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s got to the better. Hopefully we will get that effort tomorrow, that 40-minute, consistent effort from our guys.”
Tipoff at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Tuesday night is set for 7 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network with Larry Punteney and Shon Morris on the call.
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.