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Huskers aren’t looking past Rutgers — or too far back to the Michigan State loss

January 22, 2019

LINCOLN — Glynn Watson set his feet and fired from the corner baseline.

One.

Assistant Armon Gates fed him another.

Two.

He made three in a row. Then five. Six. Seven. Watson finished his postpractice workout, wiped the sweat off his forehead and was the last to leave the court with a blank stare.

“It’s been rough,” senior Tanner Borchardt said of the team’s reaction to a 70-64 loss to No. 6 Michigan State last Thursday. “Obviously, neither team shot well, so we just think if we would’ve hit a couple more shots, we could’ve taken down the No. 6 team in the nation. But you just gotta bounce back from that.”

After a day off and two days of prep, Nebraska heads to Rutgers for a Monday night matchup against one of the Big Ten’s worst teams. The Scarlet Knights are 8-9, including 1-6 in league play.

But that one win, 64-61, came over No. 11 Ohio State on Jan. 9.

“You just have to be ready to go every night out,” coach Tim Miles said. “The big thing is, no hangover, right? You have to get past the disappointment of a loss, a home loss, and get onto the next.”

Geo Baker is Rutgers’ star. The 6-foot-4 sophomore scores 12.9 points per game, with 4.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds. But beyond Baker, Rutgers’ offense is mediocre at best. It’s last in the conference in points per game, 317th in Division I in effective field goal percentage, 315th in 3-point percentage and 231st in overall offensive efficiency. Defensively, the Scarlet Knights are a bit better with the 50th most efficient defense. Teams shoot above average from 3-point range, and score 66.8 points per game, ninth in the conference.

But Rutgers is big, one of the best rebounding teams in the conference, so Nebraska will prepare for Monday similar to the way it prepped for Michigan State.

“That’ll be good for us,” Miles said. “It’ll challenges us in a different way.”

Shot selection is the main concern with this team in recent weeks, Miles said. He was upset over Nebraska’s decisions against Michigan State, and that carried into film sessions this week.

Some of that weight falls on James Palmer, who started 1 for 11 Thursday night but ended up with 24 points.

“James is a playmaker and he acts like it, which is why sometimes he puts himself and our team in difficult situations, but that’s why we roll him out there, too,” Miles said. “I want him to take great shots.”

That goes for everyone. In Nebraska’s five losses, the Huskers have shot a combined 30 for 115, eight percentage points below the average.

Nebraska ranks near the bottom of college basketball in bench minutes per game, but could see more help from Amir Harris, who Miles said is 100 percent back after weeks of dealing with mononucleosis. Harris said that was frustrating, but wants to help as much as he can. Miles expects Harris to help most on the defensive end and on the glass. Nebraska is last in the Big Ten in defensive rebounds per game. And Rutgers is the third-best offensive rebounding team in the Big Ten.

Vegas favors Nebraska by eight points Monday, the largest spread for NU in a while. But Nebraska can’t get too comfortable. Too many times over the years NU has dropped a game on the road that has kept them out of the NCAA tournament, like the loss to Illinois last year.

“We got a tough one at Rutgers,” Borchardt said. “They’re capable of a lot of things, they’re a tough, hard-nosed team. We just gotta bounce back.”

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