Miles, Huskers set to face familiar old foe in South Dakota

December 17, 2018

With a capacity of 3,200, the Sanford Pentagon will be much more intimate than any other venue the Nebraska men’s basketball team plays in this season.

With such a small space, the parents of Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles — Tip (age 92) and Alyce (87) — won’t be sitting far away as their son coaches the Huskers against Oklahoma State on Sunday night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

But don’t expect the coach to tone it down on the sideline just because mom and dad are in town.

“Nope,” Miles joked Friday, “Mom can’t hear.”

The game is a key one for the Huskers, as they reach the end of a four-game stretch that has included games against Illinois, Minnesota, Creighton, and now, the Cowboys. A victory would give the Huskers a 3-1 record in those games and give NU another quality pelt to hang on the wall in its efforts to build an NCAA Tournament case.

Oklahoma State is just 4-5, but has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. This will be the first meeting between the teams since a Big 12 Tournament game in 2011 and the 118th meeting overall.

Nebraska has been working for years to set up games with old Big Eight/Big 12 conference foes. A home-and-home with Kansas concluded last year, and the Huskers have also looked into games with Kansas State and Missouri.

But when NU couldn’t find open dates to match up with potential opponents, the Huskers started looking in a different direction.

That’s where Miles’ relationship with Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoff paid dividends. Sanford Health owns and operates the Pentagon, and the facility has hosted a number of Division I games since opening in 2013. Oklahoma State has previously played in the building, as have Big Ten Conference teams Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

The company has done a lot for Summit League schools, Miles said, and has also been involved with Coaches vs. Cancer and other initiatives Miles is involved with.

A strong base of Nebraska alumni in Sioux Falls helped as well, Miles said.

“I think it will be a lot of fun, and I think it will be good for our guys,” Miles said. “And for a neutral base, I hope there’s a lot more Husker fans than Cowboy fans up there.”

That seems like a good bet. The game has been sold out since September.

So while the Huskers will give up a home game to play at a neutral site, NU still gets a power five opponent in a setting that figures to be predominantly pro-Nebraska.

“I was at the Pentagon recently for a high school game, and it’s a really cool place,” Miles said. “It’s got this historic kind of throwback element to it. They have all this memorabilia and nostalgia to it. It carries noise really well.

“I think it will be a cool environment, so I’m excited for it.”

Miles has more reasons to be excited. He grew up in Doland, South Dakota, about 150 miles from Sioux Falls, and there figures to be plenty of family and friends in attendance. With Nebraska not playing again until Dec. 22, Miles plans to spend Sunday night in Sioux Falls with his parents.

Coaching and winning the game come first, of course, but Miles admitted Sunday could have a little different feel.

“It’s gotten more interesting as I get closer to the day and people reach out and stuff like that, but I’m trying to keep it the same routine as much as possible,” Miles said. “But I’m always a little hopped up, so maybe a little more.”

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