As the Huskers closed out their season opening 68-40 win over Midland Lutheran on Wednesday night, the team left the court to a chorus of boos.
No, it wasn’t because the team ran up the score, in fact it was quite the opposite. The Devaney Center crowd wanted the Huskers to score one more bucket as time expired. They wanted the team to reach 70, a number that would have earned each fan a free Runza sandwich.
It was that kind of night for the Huskers. The team came out with some early-game jitters but slowly pulled away from the Warriors. By the end of the night, the game was no longer in doubt, and the magic of coach Tim Miles’ first game had worn off. Fans just wanted their Runzas.
On the court, Miles’ first game at Nebraska was characterized by sloppy play from both teams. The Huskers, putting in a new system and replacing five of their top seven scorers from a year ago, struggled to get a rhythm going offensively. They ended up shooting 40.3 percent from the floor – a number Miles would like to see improved with a few more open looks. The coach said he’s seen the team play better in practice.
“I’d hoped that we would play better offensively,” Miles said. “I’d hoped that we’d play better with our supplemental offense. I thought we’d practiced better, but you are in a controlled environment in practice too, and so games are a little more chaotic.”
Miles said he it will take some time for his offensive system to reach its full potential. There are still some concepts that the coach has had to dial back on for the sake of execution early in the year.
“The more games we play, I think the flow of our offense and defense will get better,” he said. “It’s just that everything is so new right now. We know what to do, but we are just thinking too much. We aren’t just flowing with it.”
Guard David Rivers, who Miles described as a “pleasant surprise” thus far in the season, said his head has been spinning a little bit with all the new terminology and concepts. Miles requires his players to know the offense in detail, according to the sophomore.
“It’s not really a lot of things,” Rivers said. “What we do is just a lot of details. You have to really pay attention to details. Small things really come up big.”
Guard Dylan Talley led the Huskers in scoring on the night with 10 points over 23 minutes. Forward Brandon Ubel and center Andre Almeida also contributed nine points apiece for the Huskers. Miles said he needs to get his top guys more open looks.
“We have to get Brandon going, and I’d like to free play some guys,” the coach said. “There are some things that I’d like to run that are going to be iffy for a while, but we need to get Dylan Talley some looks and Brandon some looks, some good looks.”
Midland battled the Huskers closely for the first fifteen minutes of the game – they actually led 15-14 with five minutes to play in the period – but the Huskers used a 9-0 run near the end of the half to pull away from the Warriors 30-18.
That wasn’t enough to satisfy Miles. As his team came out of the locker room, he tweeted his disappointment.
“Obviously, we have a lot to get better at,” his account read.
Nebraska steadily added to its lead in the final 20 minutes of the game. Nebraska’s upper hand in strength and size wore on Midland’s smaller roster. It seemed that each time a Nebraska shot missed, there was another Husker ready to put it back in.
That wasn’t the case on the defensive end. According to Miles, the Huskers failed to box out on the defensive glass as well as he would have liked.
“We didn’t clean up with the rebounds as much as I would have liked,” he said. “I don’t know if we had much of a rebounding advantage, but 12 offensive rebounds I think we gave up, I was not very happy with that. When you don’t finish possessions you give the other team hope, you know. They can scrap.”
In the end, Nebraska got the win and Miles will take that any time he can get it.
“You are always grateful to win,” he said. “But, I told the guys in the locker room, ‘you got me booed out of the gym here, not getting Runzas for everybody.”
Team - Final - 1st - 2nd
Nebraska - 68 - 30 - 38
Midland - 40 - 18 - 22
NEB - D. Talley - 10 pts (3-12), 7 reb
A. Almeida - 9 pts (4-5), 8 reb
D. Rivers - 9 pts (2-5), 5 reb
MID - J. Parrot - 15 pts (6-15)