Picture by Chris Machian – Omaha World Herald
The atmosphere in Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday night was electric. The building was buzzing with anticipation for the men’s basketball team to take on old rival Kansas; while the women’s volleyball team was playing for a second national championship in three years. These huge events, in addition to Scott Frost being introduced to the public before tipoff, had every person in Husker longing to find the nearest brick wall to run though. It was the most hype I’ve felt collectively from Husker nation since the men’s basketball team beat Wisconsin in 2014 to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Devonte’ Graham just had to ruin all the fun at the beginning of the game. The senior came out hot with a smooth stroke for a quick 11 points as Udoka Azubuike bullied people down-low with post moves and easy dunks. It looked to be a long night for the Huskers with a hungry Kansas team coming off two-straight losses.
You expected Nebraska to roll over and die didn’t you? On the contrary.
This team battled throughout a hard-fought game. On offense they avoided a shot clock violation for the first game in what seems like forever; and even forced Kansas into one with strong defense. They showed heart, toughness, and guts. The Huskers left everything they had on the floor. That’s all we can ask. Kansas just made one more play.
Phew. After five straight games against daunting opponents we can let out a deep exhale after what is by far the toughest stretch on the schedule. That doesn’t mean Nebraska can let off the gas. They are exhausted both physically and emotionally after the tough loss to Kansas, but now they have a chance to bounce back with a three-game home-stand before Big Ten play kicks back into action. What Nebraska can’t do is regress. Tim Miles’ teams have a history of playing down to their competition (Incarnate Word in 2014, Gardner-Webb in 2016), and these next three opponents won’t exactly have anyone shaking in their boots.
Momentum would be huge going into conference play and could be the start of a run that gives this team a legitimate shot at the NCAA tournament. Looking around the conference Nebraska can fair well against anyone. If the game against Michigan State wasn’t so early in the season, I could see the Huskers marching into East Lansing and stealing a win as they have done multiple times in recent years (2014 and 2016). Nebraska has shown promise against good competition and now has the chance to prove themselves even more in conference play.
- Tim Miles is coaching for his job. No really, that’s his profession. This five game stretch went about as well as it could’ve for the Huskers and their head coach. He had his team in every game and even tried new things we rarely see like proper offensive sets and a 1-3-1 zone on defense. Most importantly though, he had his team playing as hard as they could. Miles has had a modest career at Nebraska through six seasons; with his seat warmer than usual the past two. It was tough seeing him so emotional after the heartbreaking loss on Saturday. I’ve questioned a lot of Miles’ decisions during his time in Lincoln, but this five game stretch had me gain a newfound respect for him. He deserves to be the Huskers head coach. For the time being at least.
- Thomas Allen is a spark-plug off the bench. The freshman from Raleigh had 13 points in 14 minutes against Kansas; including a clutch three-pointer to tie the score at 51 with 12 minutes left in the game. He’s managed the team well in relief of Glynn Watson. However, I don’t like when both he and Watson are on the floor together. It creates a size disadvantage and neither of them are as good off the ball as they are with the ball in their hands.
- What is the deal with Duby Okeke? Starting center Jordy Tshimanga continued his season slump against Kansas. Okeke played just seven minutes off the bench despite only having one foul. For most of the second half Miles went with Watson, Gill, Palmer, Copeland, and Roby. I like this lineup from an athleticism and offensive standpoint, but Roby can’t guard true centers as evident by Azuibuke’s career game. Okeke could’ve helped immensely by using his size and strength to limit Azuibuke. He specializes on the defensive end, yet for some reason we don’t use him. Did he do something to Tim Miles to affect his playing time? I can’t figure out why he isn’t playing more
- vs. #13 Kansas: L, 73-72
- Points: Palmer, 14
- Rebounds: Copeland, 8
- Assists: Taylor, 4
- Blocks: Roby, 4
- Steals: Watson, 3
- Wednesday Dec. 20th: vs. UTSA. Tipoff at 7pm. Watch on BTN/BTN2Go.
- Friday Dec. 22nd: vs. Delaware State. Tipoff at 7pm. Watch on BTN Plus.
One final thought: I loved the Scott Frost introduction. I had goosebumps and physically felt the revitalized energy this hire has put back into Nebraska. Nonetheless, I thought it was ill-timed at the beginning of the game and took away from the basketball team. Here we are–seconds before the biggest home basketball game of the season– and we turn our focus away from the game and team towards our new football coach. I’m as excited as anyone about this new hire, but I felt the introduction would’ve worked better at halftime and exhilarated the crowd for the second half.