There are losses, and there are bad losses. This was a bad loss.
Not because the Huskers lost at home to a team picked to finish 4th in the America East Conference. No, this loss was bad because of how the game was lost. Not only did the Huskers struggle offensively for much of the game, but they played terribly defensively, and looked sluggish and uninspired for much of the game.
For the third straight game, the Huskers came out sluggish and uninspired against an inferior opponent, fell behind big, and had to fight back in the second half. Not entirely surprising considering the first halves, the Huskers have now lost 2 out of 3, and have only 3 more tune-up games before Big XII play starts, and are in serious need of retooling before that happens. If the Huskers want to do better than 5-11 in league, they can't be outplayed by inferior teams like this.
The Huskers really missed Cookie Miller tonight. Usually, he comes into the game and gives the team a big spark when things are going slow. With Cookie gone for family reasons, that spark took way, way too long to show up.
Offense: D. First off, the grade for the second half alone would probably be a B+ or better. The Huskers got rolling in the second half, getting transition baskets, driving the basket, and creating shots. But in the first half, the Husker offense looked lazy, casually tossing the ball around, and taking lots of bad, bad shots, which would come together for an F. Also alarming was the rash of missed free throws -- 11 misses in only 25 attempts, the worst free throw shooting of the year.
Defense: D-. Again, the defense played considerably better in the second half, but would probably only get a C+ or B- for the second half. For the whole game, UMBC got a lot of open shots, and a whole lot of easy lay-ups. In the second half, the Retrievers at least had to work for them.
Rebounding: D-. I was tempted to give an F here, because I don't like to see the Huskers get outrebounded 32-19. But, for once, the Huskers didn't get completely killed on the defensive glass -- the Retrievers only came away with 5 offensive boards (though they only missed 18 shots). But the Huskers, despite missing 23 shots, got only 4 offensive boards -- two of which were on the final possession. Darryl Proctor for UMBC had 13 boards, nearly outrebounding the Huskers by himself.
Ball Handling: C. 13 Assists and 12 TOs wasn't that bad, but the turnovers were all extremely costly, turning into 16 UMBC points. The second half was much, much better, especially once the offense got going. Even Husker passes had more zip on them.
Coaching: C-. Whatever adjustments Doc made to finally get the Huskers going save him from a truly abyssmal grade, but the lack of energy in the first half is alarming.
Overall: D. This is only not an F because the Huskers managed to come back from down 20 to make it come down to the last possession. The second half rally was made necessary only because the first half play was so atrocious.
Player of the Game: Ade Dagunduro. Ade was 9-9 shooting in a game where everyone shot badly, drove the basket very, very effectively, had two amazing blocks, and was really the spark that finally got the Huskers going.
Next Game: Tuesday, 12/30, vs. South Carolina State (no TV)