This is becoming a disturbing pattern. For the second time in as many home games, the Huskers held a lead of 15 points or greater with under ten minutes to play only to see that lead shrink to four points or fewer. This time, the lead was 19 points and the opponent the Nicholls State Colonels (1-9). The Huskers (9-4) went up 49-30 after consecutive Ray Gallegos three pointers. The Huskers were never able to put the Colonels away, however, largely due to NU's inability to convert their free throw attempts. The Huskers, who struggled to find their way to the free throw line early in the season has been there 21 times in the first 38:50 of the game. They only made 10 of those opportunities, which helped, in part to allow NSU to climb back into the game. However, with as significant the Huskers struggles were in letting Nicholls State back into the game, it was just as important in their eventually sealing of the victory. As NSU was trying to complete their comeback attempt, as so often is the case, they had to resort to fouling the Huskers to try and extend the game. In doing so, they put the Huskers to the free throw line 10 times. NU converted all of them.
The Huskers closed their non-conference portion of the schedule at 9-4, which is better than many had expected of them. Just as many are expecting the looming Big Ten schedule to be tantamount to climbing Mt. Everest twice in the time everyone else has to climb it just once. In many respects, the Huskers are ahead of schedule in Tim Miles' first season as head coach. No one is hiding from the fact the Huskers are lacking in talent and a handful of other areas it takes to be successful in college basketball. The Huskers will start the conference slate on the road for three of their first four games with trips to Columbus, Ann Arbor and East Lansing. The teams that call those towns home are ranked 10, 2 and 19. Good luck, guys. The Huskers first two Big Ten home games are vs. Wisconsin and Purdue, two teams that have not lived up to their expectations as of yet this season. If the Huskers have any hope of pulling off a post season miracle, they'll need both of those games.
Before they can worry about Wisconsin, they'll have to conquer the Buckeye beast. They'll do that Wednesday afternoon at 5:30.