Nebraska dropped the first game of the Fred Hoiberg era 66-47 as the Huskers were ice cold most of the night while the Highlanders caught fire from 3 in the second half to pull away. After the game, Hoiberg and senior guard Haanif Cheatham met with the media.
Coach Fred Hoiberg
On his reaction to the game:
“Early on I thought we had a good burst out of the locker room. I thought our transition was excellent, I thought defensively, we were doing a good job of disrupting them and turning them over and that’s what got us out in transition. Obviously, that changed, and the momentum shifted. I think we started out 6-for-7 and finished the half off 3-for-20. We missed some good looks and I thought that once the ball stopped going in the hoop, defense wasn’t as good. I thought we pressed to try and get it all back, get that momentum all back at once, and the ball movement wasn’t where it needed to be.
“Second half, obviously they came out, they were hot, they were confident. I give them credit for the way they came in here with their mentality. But it’s an opportunity now and we have to bounce back in a big way on Thursday and have two good days of preparation for this game on Saturday and find a way to get this one behind us. It’s a very disappointing loss, but you have to find a way in this business to get over it and put it behind you and get ready for the next one which is a heck of a team we’re going to be playing on Saturday.”
On his level of surprise by the result:
“You don’t really know until you go through it. Now that we’ve been through it, we’ve got to figure a way to get back out there and find a way to battle through it better. You try to put them in as many of those situations as you can in practice and it just doesn’t simulate this type of action, this type of game experience when you’re out there. It’s all about going back, watching the film, getting on the floor, making corrections and hopefully coming out with a good effort on Saturday.”
On the team’s shot selection from the perimeter:
“I thought early on we had some really good looks. Kevin Cross has been shooting it really well in practice. They were just backing off of him. It’s frustrating when you have those looks, obviously, and they don’t go in. We missed free throws. We had a chance to go up 12 or 13 points early in the game had we made our free throws. So it could have been a completely different game. If a couple of those go in, if you make your free throws, you keep that momentum. But it didn’t happen, and then they became the confident team and stepped up and hit the shots in the end. You have to give them credit for that.”
On perimeter defense:
“The big guy’s a load. He’s four inches taller or five inches taller than anybody on our roster. We knew they were going to play through him. He’s a good player, he’s a good decision-maker down there and they got it going. They hit them from every which way. They’d hit it off a deflection, they’d hit it off last-second on the shot clock. But once they got momentum, they controlled the tempo and that’s what you’ve got to do in a game like this. You have to hopefully keep the tempo and the momentum on your side and we did not do that.”
On UC Riverside hitting shots late in the shot clock:
“It was very frustrating to have that happen. I think we forced 18 turnovers but you’ve got to defend all the way through. I think they got 13 offensive rebounds on us as well. You’ve got to find a way to finish off the possession because once we do get that ball off the rim we’re pretty effective in transition. When we didn’t do that, we were not a very efficient team tonight.”
On being more vocal:
“That’s what we’ve talked about. It’s going to take situations like this to really figure out who we are and what we are and what we have and who’s going to lead through the tough times. I think Haanif [Cheatham] is as good as we have. He’s been through experiences like this, he’s played in the NCAA Tournament. He and Derrick [Walker] I think are the only two that have done that. We need to have that leadership in the huddles when the coaches are out there meeting and trying to go out there and make the adjustment. Those players need to find a way to stick together through that. Again, I’m confident we’ll do it. I like our group, I like our guys. We’re going to bounce back, I know that. They’re going to come in with a good attitude on Thursday and again, we’re going to need two good days of prep.”
On shots not falling around the rim:
“Confidence is a funny thing in this game. When you have it, that rim seems like the ocean. When not, that thing looks like a little thimble up there. With the lack of free-throw — I think we went 1-for-2 on our first five or six trips to the stripe — and then you miss some good, open looks and then that carried over to the restricted area. I’m confident we’ll get those things going. We’ll adjust, we’ll get back to work and I’m confident this group will come out and play with great effort on Saturday.”
Senior Guard Haanif Cheatham
On Hoiberg’s message after the game:
“It starts in our practice. We’ve got to have high energy at all times. It’s just understanding that one game doesn’t define us Our season’s not over. We’ve still got practice, we’ve still got games and it’s understanding that it’s a marathon. Like I said, our season’s not over, we’re not going home. We’ve still got 29 games and we’ll be fine. We’ve just got to work hard in practice and be ready for Saturday.”
On dealing with adversity:
“I don’t think we really got tested yet and I think us being tested and not knowing what to expect, I think it’s going to make us realize what we need to do and the preparation. Once we realize what we need to do, we’ll come out more prepared.”
On why they couldn’t find any offensive rhythm:
“This is our first time ever being tested and I think once we didn’t recognize what to do once we got slapped in the face, we got stagnant a little bit. We got a little bit stuck. But I know we’re going to get better, we’re going to prepare the right way, we’re going to be ready for Saturday. We always talk about family in that locker room. We’re always telling guys keep their head up. Like I said, our season’s not over and we have a long way to go.”
On the difference from the exhibition game:
“I would say probably the level of competition. I think UC Riverside is a very good team. They came out and slapped us in the face and I think we just couldn’t pick it up from there. But going back and watching film and stuff, we’re going to know what to do on Saturday and be more prepared.”
On the guards crashing the glass:
That’s something we always talk about, helping Yvan down there, helping Kev down there down low. With a 7-footer down there, it was pretty tough. But that’s something that we’re going to see all season so we’re going to have t prepare for it the right way and be ready for it next game.”
What can you do besides just shoot and rebound better to fix things?
“Energy on the defensive end, guys talking on the bench, because that means a lot. once guys talk and have high energy, clapping and talking on the bench, it can go a long way, it can lead to some great runs on the court. I didn’t think we really had that much but I think we’re going to get better from it. We talked about it in the locker room as soon as the game was over. I think guys are realizing what we really have to do now, and once we realize it it’s only going to get better.”
Did you see any red flags in the preparation?
“Everything was the same. We had great practices, we had great preparation. Like I said, we never really had adversity. It’s the first game. We’re not going to go crazy over it. It’s going to be tough for sure the next couple days, but as soon as Saturday comes around you’re going to see a whole new team, a whole new energy in the building.”
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.