The Huskers were supposed to spend Friday’s practice prepping to face Florida A&M on Sunday. Then COVID-19 struck at A&M, and now that game is off the schedule.
“We’re prepared for whatever,” senior guard Kobe Webster told reporters, fresh off the practice floor. “We know these times are uncertain, so we’re preparing like we’re going to have a full season. Obviously the news kind of sucks that we won’t get to play on Sunday, but I think that just gives us more time to prepare.”
Oregon is hanging out in Omaha this week and potentially looking to add another nonconference game before heading home, but don’t expect Fred Hoiberg to call up Dana Altman.
“From my understanding, I think we’re just kind of waiting it out,” Webster said. “We’re going to take this time to work on the things that we need to clean up on the floor on our end and use this time to get some rest as well because we played a lot of games in a short amount of time. This week I think will just be about us and cleaning up what we need to clean up on the floor and obviously taking care of our bodies.”
The Huskers do have a window between the trip to Creighton on Dec. 11 and the start of Big Ten play against Wisconsin on Dec. 21 to add a make-up nonconference game or two, which would be important for Derrick Walker if nothing else as he has to serve a 14-game suspension before becoming eligible.
The entire team will likely have to deal with schedule adjustments all season long. Individually, Webster is having to adjust to a new role. After starting every game at point guard for his three seasons at Western Illinois, Webster is coming off the bench at Nebraska as a graduate transfer.
“Honestly, I’ve sort of looked at it like I kind of have the same role,” Webster said. “I would say there’s less pressure on me, which I love. Coming off the bench, being able to play with a lot of the weapons that we have, but I’m that sort of spark plug in terms of instant offense. I kind of have the same role: making shots, being solid on both ends of the floor and being able to make plays. I’m loving it, to be honest.”
Webster is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.8 points in 20.8 minutes per game through Nebraska’s first four games. With Dalano Banton and Trey McGowens starting in the backcourt, Webster can come off the bench and play alongside either one of them with all three capable of playing both on and off the ball.
“Those two guys are the real deal, both of them,” Webster said. “Trey’s pace offensively — Dalano’s too, obviously, being 6-9 he gets down the floor in about four steps. Trey is obviously an elite athlete. He’s super disruptive on the defensive end. But playing alongside them, it’s great. Like I said, it takes the pressure off of me. Especially Dalano, he’s looking to make plays; he’s not necessarily looking to score or looking to do something specific. He’s very good at reading the defense. I think you’ve seen it; in the South Dakota game he got me a couple wide open 3s just by taking a couple dribbles and attacking. Trey’s the same way, his first step is very quick so he’s able to get by defenders easily and he opens the floor up for me.”
Webster scored 11 points in Nebraska’s 76-69 win against South Dakota on Tuesday including a pair of left corner catch-and-shoot 3-pointers during a 12-2 second-half Huskers run that stretched a five-point lead into a 15-point advantage.
“We all live for those types of moments, when it’s a close game, the team is making a run and you’re able to answer back,” Webster said. “Those guys — I think Shamiel [Stevenson] passed the second one to me. But we have a ton of weapons, a ton of guys that can make plays for themselves and for others. Having those weapons and also understanding the weapons we have are very unselfish. It definitely felt good to do that and being that spark plug off the bench is a role that I’m sort of embracing.”
Webster hit those 3s, but perimeter shooting is something he and the Huskers have struggled with thus far despite generating plenty of looks. Webster — a career 37.4% shooter at Western Illinois who shot 41.3% as a sophomore — is at 26.3% through four games at Nebraska. As a team, the huskers are shooting 28.9%. Webster has “no doubt” those percentages will improve moving forward.
“We’ve gotten great looks during the four games and they just haven’t fallen,” Webster said. “Guys are in the gym every day and we know that we are capable of shooting a much higher percentage, both me individually and the team as a whole. We’re just going to keep focusing on us, we’re going to stay in the gym, keep getting our shots up, keep getting cleaning stuff up on both ends of the floor and I think we’ll be all right.”
Currently, the next game on the Huskers’ schedule is the Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup with Georgia Tech on Wednesday. Until then, Nebraska will have plenty of practice time to focus on the things Webster said they need to clean up.
“Offensively, we need to be a little bit more crisp,” Webster said. “Today we sort of worked on having guys in different positions because we know in transition we’re not always going to be in the same spots. Having guys know every spot on the floor will definitely help us offensively and I think it will generate even more movement and pace offensively. On the defensive end, I think just kind of the X-outs, the switches and being loud on that end when we communicate is really the biggest thing right now. We’re going to keep working on those things and keep preparing for next week.”
Tipoff for Wednesday’s game is set for 6:15 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
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.