When Nebraska takes the court Saturday for its game against Illinois, the team will be attempting to put its worst loss of the season behind it.
Nebraska is coming off a 77-46 loss to Wisconsin on Tuesday, the worst loss for the Huskers since their 34-point rout at the hands of Ohio State last year. The Badgers put the chokehold on the Huskers early and never let go. In the second half especially, Wisconsin shooters made just about any shot they wanted as part of a 51 percent shooting night.
“We were the Bad News Bears for most of the second half,” Husker coach Tim Miles said. “I told the guys that, and I forgot they don’t even know who the Bad News Bears are.”
Nebraska may have been physically tired. After a snowstorm pushed back their previous game with Iowa, the Huskers had minimal recovery time between battles. Senior guard Dylan Talley thought the team just wasn’t right before or during the game.
“I think, as a team, we didn’t come out with that same focus that we need in order to win and compete,” he said. “Every game we go into, this year especially, we’re viewed as the underdog. We’ve got to play with that chip on our shoulders. And as a unit, we didn’t play well (Tuesday), and it showed on the scoreboard.”
As always, Miles is stressing mental toughness and effort this week with his team. The coach has harped on it all season, trying to get the most out of a bunch of players he didn’t recruit.
At times, the Huskers have come out with their hair on fire this season. Games like Michigan State, Ohio State and the first matchup with Wisconsin had the team in the mix late, but other games have gotten away from Miles’ squad.
Moving on to another potential blowout, the challenge for Nebraska’s first-year coach is to keep his players motivated as their season winds down.
Illinois is another team with the potential to hang a crooked number on the Huskers if they don’t show up. The Fighting Illini put up 79 against Purdue and 94 against USC earlier in the year.
Shooters Brandon Paul and Tracy Abrams are hitting on 40.3 and 41.9 percent of their shots from the floor, so Nebraska will need to stay with that pair if they want to keep things interesting.
On the offensive end, Dylan Talley has been Nebraska’s man as of late. The guard has scored 21, 18 and 28 in his last three games to lead the Huskers over that stretch. And Nebraska has needed him because the team’s other top option – Ray Gallegos – has gone cold, scoring just six, 11 and one point over the same three game stretch.
It will be a challenge for Nebraska Saturday, according to Miles. The Huskers will see if they have the legs to go the distance with yet another superior team.
In the future – and Husker fans hope it’s the near future – Nebraska won’t be in so many underdog situations, according to the coach.
“The higher you go up, the harder it is because there’s fewer players who can help make a difference,” Miles said. “So that’s the challenge here, but we’ve got to figure it out.”