Huskers Haven't Quite Earned Their Stripes; Dominated by Richardson, Illinois

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskers struggled all night as Illinois got a big night from D.J. Richardson en route to a 71-51 route of the Huskers.

At halftime, Husker head coach Tim Miles, in his traditional tweet, spoke of pride.

After the game, he spoke about being embarrassed. He spoke of being prepared and playing with poise.

"We just have to have more readiness, more personal pride in those things," Miles said. "It seemed like tonight we let too many things on one end of the floor affect things on the other end of the floor. That tells you a lot about our mentality, where we were. We're not where we need to be."

The Huskers (10-10, 1-6), for the second straight game, started slowly. Illinois (15-5, 2-4), who been the most prolific three point shooting team in the country before starting conference play, had struggled to hit from beyond the three point arc since. That changed today as the Illini connected seven times from deep.

The Huskers were also not able to contain Illinois guard D.J. Richardson who scored every which way en route to a 30 point performance, besting his career high by 10. The performance by Richardson was disturbing enough to Husker fans and their head coach, but that wasn't what had Miles worked up after the game. It was the Huskers rebounding efforts.

Nebraska, who had been a fairly strong defensive rebounding team struggled to secure them tonight, especially in the first half, where Illinois was able to grab 12 boards, a number larger than what NU was able to secure defensively. It's difficult to win basketball games that way. That, is spurned Miles to invoke the "e" word.

"I've coached a lot of games at a lot of levels and I don't think I've ever been as disappointed or embarassed in one area of the game," he said.

Illinois started the season 12-0 but found themselves having lost their last three contests. They came into the Devaney Center a desperate team. From the opening tip, they played like it. It caused the Huskers fits all night.

"You could just see how quick they were to the ball, how sloppy we were with out ball handling," Miles said. "Three guys had assists, seven had turnovers. Almost anybody that played had a turnover." The Huskers had 14 of them (indecently, so did Illinois).

Last week, the Huskers saw freshman Shavon Shields break out with big performances vs. Purdue and Penn State, earning himself the Big Ten Freshman of the Week award. This week, he got a taste of what such an award brings with it. Shields battled foul trouble and a hounding defense as Illinois Joseph Bertrand was in his hip pocket much of the night. Shields only scored two points, both from the free throw line, going 2-6 from the charity stripe.

Miles isn't too worried about the tough night for the talented frosh, "I think it was being a freshman. Just that now you've played pretty good and a hopped up opponent is going to come after you, and I don't think responded very well. But he'll learn from it."

There were really very few bright spots for the Huskers. Dylan Talley did score 16 points, but he had a negative assist to turnover ratio. Brandon Ubel had a cool dunk early in the game. That's about it. Everyone that played more than 13 minutes had at least one turnover except for Ray Gallegos, but he had trouble finding his shot, going 2-8 for the game and 1-7 from three.

The Huskers now have to battle through the grind of the Big Ten schedule and fight off fatigue and the temptation to lose focus as losses mount. Miles said he'll give the team tomorrow off, but on the horizon is the toughest stretch of NU's season with four ranked teams in five games, but first, comes a visit from Northwestern Saturday afternoon at 2 pm.

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