Here are some notes and thoughts after Nebraska’s closer-than-expected 62-47 loss Wednesday night at No. 2 Michigan:
Credit Tim Miles for his game plan, even if part of it did mean crossing his fingers.
Nebraska’s coach told a local media pool on Tuesday that Michigan couldn’t possibly keep shooting three-pointers at its current clip. The Wolverines had made at least 10 in four straight games, were shooting 52 percent in two Big Ten games, and were 42.3 percent for the season.
Miles kept saying Michigan “had to return to the mean,” and he was, fortunately, correct.
Michigan was just 3-of-17 on three-pointers against Nebraska, which equaled the Wolverines' worst performance of the season; they also went 3-of-17 against Pittsburgh.
“We were fortunate, but the timing was right,” Miles said. “We fouled some early in the second half, which hurt us, but they missed threes, so we were able to hang around. It’s that’s simple.”
Hoping Michigan would miss wasn’t the entire game plan, of course. Nebraska also did an admirable job of controlling the tempo, running shot clock and keeping Michigan’s transition game well under control. (The Wolverines were officially credited with only one fast-break basket).
But Nebraska was doomed in rebounding (a 47-30 Michigan advantage) and at the free-throw line, where Michigan had 26 attempts, compared to Nebraska’s seven.
“If we would’ve done better with that,” Nebraska guard Ray Gallegos said, “we would’ve put ourselves in a better position to win the game.”
Speaking of Gallegos, the junior guard attempted a career-high 21 field goal attempts. That’s good, considering Gallegos is regarded as Nebraska’s best shooter.
Well, most of the time.
Gallegos made only seven, and was just 4-of-16 on three-pointers. But he was the only Husker to score over the game’s final 12 minutes.
And therein lies the problem with Nebraska basketball. Scoring.
Not that that’s a newsflash.
“If we can find a steady diet of scoring …” Miles said.
Yes, if only.
Nebraska attempted 26 three-pointers, making only six, “but I’m fine with that,” Miles said, “because, you know, we need to generate offense.”
Of course, there were no qualms with effort or intensity, unlike in a lopsided 70-44 loss at Ohio State last week.
Nebraska trailed in that game 20-15 at around the six-minute mark of the first half, and then became unraveled and trailed by 19 points at halftime.
Wednesday at Michigan, Nebraska trailed 21-15 with about five minutes remaining, and this time fought the Wolverines the remainder of the half, and trailed only 25-20.
Nebraska kept the margin within single digits until the game's final five minutes.
It’s that competitiveness that has Miles more encouraged.
“We just have to unconditionally accept, ‘This is the way it’s going to take for us to win the game,’ and I think we’re getting closer to that,” he said. “I was proud of the kids tonight with their effort. I think they put themselves in a position to win. We know what we have to do to get over the top.”
Senior center Andre Almeida, coming off an ankle injury, played only 10 minutes, although Miles admitted after the game that Almeida should’ve seen more minutes.
“I probably should’ve played him more,” Miles said, “but at the same time, I was going with my gut.”
When point guard Benny Parker picked up his fourth foul two minutes into the second half, Miles generally stuck with a lineup of Dylan Talley, Ray Gallegos, David Rivers, Shavon Shields/Almeida and Brandon Ubel.
Miles said he liked the bigger lineup from an offensive standpoint.
“I felt like we were in a position to be competitive,” he said, “and we had some really good looks we missed.”
In another injury note, walk-on point guard Mike Peltz didn't make the trip to Michigan because of his sore knee.
You've got to wonder if Peltz, who's playing with a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, will be able to last much longer this season. He's been trying to play through pain and hold off on needed surgery until the season is over, but ...
Nebraska had only one day of preparation for the Michigan game because the Huskers, who played Sunday, had taken Monday as off day.
The fact Nebraska then played as well as it did against Michigan isn’t a coincidence, Miles said.
“It just occurs to me that this team needs to be fresh to compete well, and that’s really important to us,” Miles said. “We’ve got to figure out how to make sure we have plenty of rest, especially when we’re playing as few guys as we are.”
Nebraska played only seven players against Michigan. Gallegos played the entire game for the third time this season, and for the second time in Big Ten games.
Nebraska doesn’t play again until Sunday, at No. 22 Michigan State, and will take Thursday as an off day.