Huskers go back to basics in effort to repair defensive fractures
Whatever Nebraska lost defensively in losses at Maryland and Iowa to drop to 1-3 in Big Ten play, the Huskers have spent the last two days trying to find.
For a team built on defense that has plummeted to the bottom of the league in a handful of defensive categories, that has meant getting back to the basics of its defensive principles.
“We started the year off a great defensive team, holding opponents to a great percentage and low scoring, and somehow we got away from that the past two games — the past four or five games, actually,” senior forward Tanner Borchardt said Wednesday. “And we just can’t do that. So the last couple practices we’ve just been breaking down the fundamentals, starting from the bottom … basically stuff you learn the first day of practice, we’re doing it right now.
“Just to rebuild what we had a month or so ago. That’s always been our identity. I think we’re just getting back to it.”
The Huskers will see if the work has paid off Thursday night. NU hosts Penn State at Pinnacle Bank Arena, with tip scheduled for 8:05 p.m.
In conference games, the Huskers (11-4, 1-3 Big Ten) rank at or near the bottom in scoring defense, field-goal defense and three-point defense, to say nothing of their rebounding woes. It’s a combination that cost them second-half leads at Minnesota and Maryland and never gave them a real chance against Iowa.
Tim Miles’ news conferences usually contain their share of levity. Wednesday Nebraska’s coach took on a more serious tone.
“Effort. Care,” Miles said of what he wants to see from his players Thursday night. “This is a more casual team. I think one of the things we always work on is getting them locked in and running to the fight.
“They did yesterday in practice. It’s like they said list week — they were angry. And I’m like, we need to stay angry. I don’t think we stayed angry. I’m not sure we were ever that angry.”
Penn State (7-8, 0-4) presents an interesting opportunity for NU. The Nittany Lions rank last in league games in scoring at 57 points per game, 13th in field-goal percentage and last in three-point shooting percentage.
But, Penn State has done so against perhaps the toughest early-season slate in the conference — games against Maryland, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
“The one thing you can’t take for granted is that, ‘Oh, we’re going to win at home. We’re at home.’ And I think that’s the No. 1 message I want to put out there. That I’m happy we’re at home, and our fans have been terrific and PBA’s been very good to us,” Miles said. “That’s good, but at the same time, I don’t know that we want to depend on that.”
Huskers senior swingman James Palmer has been named to a pair of midseason national player of the year watch lists.
Palmer is one of 25 players named to the John R. Wooden Award watch list and one of 30 named to the Lute Olson Award watch list.
Palmer is believed to be the first Husker men’s player named to the midseason watch list for the Wooden Award. He is one of seven Big Ten players on the list.
The 6-foot-6 senior is averaging 20.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals per game, ranking second in the Big Ten in scoring and fourth in steals.\