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PBA Postmortem: Huskers Finish 5-11 at the Vault

March 02, 2020

Fred Hoiberg’s first season at Pinnacle Bank Arena wrapped up on Sunday evening. Nebraska still has two more regular season road games plus the Big Ten Tournament remaining, but the 2019-20 home schedule is complete.

I’m not breaking any news here, but it did not go well.

Nebraska went 5-11 at the Vault this season despite setting a program record for attendance (15,605 average attendance, topping 2014-15’s 15,569). This season is the first time Nebraska’s finished below .500 at home since 1972-73 when the Huskers went 4-5 and 9-17 overall under Joe Cipriano. 

Failing to take care of home court is a good way to set program records for futility, especially in the Big Ten this season. Take out the two teams who played at PBA on Sunday (Nebraska and Northwestern) and home teams are a combined 159-31 in the Big Ten this season. That’s a .836 winning percentage. Four Big Ten teams have just one home loss this season and five others have lost just two or three times on their home courts.

Northwestern is 4-11 at home this season (with one of those wins coming against Nebraska).

Pinnacle Bank Arena opened for the 2012-13 season, and in the six seasons since (before this year) — with a mixed bag in terms of overall success — Nebraska went 72-30 (.706) with a 16-1 season in 2017-18 and a 15-1 season in the arena’s first year.

As the attendance record indicates, Nebraska’s hiring of Fred Hoiberg as its head coach fired up the fan base, and Hoiberg and the players offered praise and gratitude for the atmosphere and the fan support at Pinnacle Bank Arena all season long.

But the Huskers couldn’t find a way to translate that into success on the court.

The issues popped up early, obviously. And by early, I mean right out of the gate. Nebraska lost its season opener to UC-Riverside (16-15 so far this season) 66-47 and followed it up with a double-overtime loss to Southern Utah in game two. After a win over South Dakota State, the Huskers needed overtime to dispatch Southern. Nebraska also lost to North Dakota, 75-74.

There were definitely some highlights at Pinnacle Bank Arena this season too, though. 

The first was Nebraska’s 70-56 win against Purdue on Dec. 15. Purdue’s Trevion Williams (6-foot-9, 270 pounds) got his with 18 points and 16 rebounds, but the Huskers locked in defensively and held the rest of the Boilermakers to 38 points on 15-of-66 shooting. Dachon Burke Jr. led the Huskers with 18 points and Cam Mack recorded the first triple-double in program history with 12 assists, 11 points and 10 rebounds on that snowy day.

Nebraska also pulled off a big upset against Iowa on Jan. 7, 76-70. Nebraska packed the paint against National Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza and dared the Hawkeyes to beat them from the perimeter. They failed, shooting 4-of-33 from deep. Five Huskers scored in double figures led by Thorir Thorbjarnarson’s 17 points and nine rebounds while Mack recorded a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists.

Nebraska lost seven straight home games to close out the year, however, and five of them were by double digits.

Overall at home this season, Nebraska averaged 70.5 points while shooting 40.6% from the field, 32.3% from 3 and 56.5% from the free-throw line. The Huskers surrendered 74.8 points per game on 43.8% from the field, 30.2% from 3 and 64.9% from the foul line.

As little success as Nebraska has enjoyed at home, it’s been even worse away from Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Huskers are 2-11 away from home with both wins coming at a neutral site. Nebraska is averaging 69.3 points on 41.9% from the field, 32.3% from 3 and 62.3% from the line away from the Vault. Defensively, the Huskers are allowing 78.8 points per game on 44.8% from the field, 35% from 3 and 69.7% from the free-throw line.

So offensively, there’s been very little difference between Nebraska’s performance at home and on the road. Perhaps the most surprising thing is Nebraska is even worse from the free-throw line at PBA than it is elsewhere, although Sunday’s horrific 8-for-30 performance dropped the team’s percentage by almost three full points. However, Nebraska’s opponents have enjoyed their home court advantages.

I’m not really sure what to make of the numbers. Obviously, Nebraska simply isn’t talented enough offensively to have success, but in general, most teams tend to play better at home, even the bad ones. Nebraska practiced plenty at Pinnacle Bank Arena; the Huskers should feel comfortable there.

In order for a quick turnaround next season, Nebraska is going to have to find a way to play much better at home. The fans are doing their part. Now the Huskers have to hold up their end of the bargain.

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