What is left to say? At this point in the 2014-15 season, there isn’t much. Thursday’s game vs. Ohio State just punctuated that point. On the surface, the easy conclusion that the lockout of the team from their locker room produced no results. That may or may not be true. A couple of things need to be pointed out before we reach that conclusion, however:
- Ohio State has more talent than Nebraska.
- Ohio State is at home, fighting for positioning in the Big Ten Conference Tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament.
- Nebraska hasn’t won a game on the road in conference play and had lost five consecutive games.
The Huskers didn’t start poorly. At least not for the first few possessions. Then a couple of things went against them: Turnovers and transition. The Huskers turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions and missed shots on their next two. The Buckeyes converted every one of those miscues by NU into points building 15-4 lead.
For all intents and purposes, it was all academic from there. Once again, NU saw its opponent build 20 point a first half lead. They had no answer for the Ohio State offense. The appearance was that between last Sunday and now, not much has changed.
What Nebraska didn’t do vs. Iowa was play hard in the second half. The Huskers saw career night from senior David Rivers. Rivers collected his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. NU freshman point guard Tarin Smith also set a career high scoring 13 points, leading the team in scoring.
The Huskers have been in search of supplemental scoring all season long. Nobody has stepped up with any consistency. Tonight they got good games from some role players, but they what they’ve been lacking are those performances while also getting them from their Steady-Eddie’s. Nebraska hasn’t been getting that lately. Leading scorer Terran Petteway has been held at least five points below his scoring average of 18 points per game in three of the past four games. For the second straight game, the other stalwart in the lineup, Shavon Shields, after learning he was the first First Team Academic All-American in program history, was held well below his season average. Versus Iowa, Shields only scored three points. Versus the Buckeyes, he only scored three. The Huskers need those two AND other scorers. Not either or.
So, the frustration continues and a season with such high hopes is left in splinters on the hardwood. Perhaps they find a way to rise up and knock off Illinois next Tuesday. Tim Miles says there’s still "gas left in the tank", but ESPN’s Dan Dakich probably described things the best on the broadcast. He said the team is "uncomfortable". They’re uncomfortable on the court; they’re uncomfortable with each other and Miles is uncomfortable with them. It could very well be true that they "like each other", as Miles put it after the Iowa game, but Dakich got it right, they don’t look comfortable with each other when the lights come on.
When you’ve got a bunch of overly emotional players such as the Huskers have, the momentum will roll whichever way it builds. Last year it built in the positive direction. Win built upon win. This year, it’s been just the opposite. Each loss feeds the next. Will they be able to sate the beast and stem the tide before they take on Illinois, a team that has had its share of ups and downs this season? We’ll find out next Tuesday, but all the evidence would indicate that it's unlikely. But how does the saying go? "That’s why they play the game."