Miles: Defense key to solving road woes

2014-02-04T16:24:00Z Miles: Defense key to solving road woesBy BRIAN ROSENTHAL / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Tim Miles isn’t making a big deal to his Nebraska basketball players about not yet having won a true road game.

“I don’t ask. I think that would be an injustice to force that thought process on them,” Miles said.

“It is what you make of it. We just need to win games. Home, away, my house, your house. I don’t care. We just need to figure out how to win.”

And it’s not like the Huskers aren’t aware of what a couple of road victories could do for their postseason tournament hopes.

Nebraska has established itself as a tough out at sold out Pinnacle Bank Arena, where its only loss in 10 games was by one point to Michigan, currently tied for first place in the Big Ten Conference.

The league has been topsy-turvy, so it’s difficult to say this with certainty, but it appears the Huskers have already played their toughest home foes, with victories over Ohio State, Minnesota and Indiana. (Nebraska doesn’t play Michigan State or, inexplicably, Iowa at home this season).

Assuming the Huskers can continue to defend home court – say, no more than one home loss from a remaining schedule of Illinois, Purdue, Penn State, Northwestern and Wisconsin – they would need one or two road victories to finish .500 in Big Ten play.

At the very least, that’s good enough for a favorable seed in the National Invitation Tournament.

But Nebraska hasn’t won multiple league road games since 2008-09, when it won three – at Texas Tech, at Colorado and at Baylor. The Huskers, now in their third season in the Big Ten, have won two league road games – at Iowa in 2012, and at Penn State last season.

Nebraska begins a two-game road trip on Wednesday with a game at No. 10 Michigan, followed by Saturday’s game at upstart Northwestern.

The Wildcats, by the way, have already won three – yes, three – Big Ten road games, and in some of the league’s most difficult venues: Indiana’s Assembly Hall, Wisconsin’s Kohl Center and Minnesota’s famed Williams Arena.

Miles said the key to winning on the road is making good decisions and playing strong defense.

“Every environment is going to be a little different, of course, but at the same time, look at what Northwestern has done, and they’ve just done a tremendous job defensively on the road,” Miles said. “That’s really where it starts. If you can set a defensive tone, you can give yourself a chance to win. We have, and then we’ve turned the ball over. Our thing is we’ve just handed our opponents easy points (on the road).”

That was especially the case in losses at Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State. In a narrow loss at Purdue, the Huskers went dry on offense over the game’s final seven minutes.

While Miles laments those missed opportunities, he said the home victories against a couple of the conference’s bigger names were important confidence-builders.

“Just those brand wins kind of do something for you,” Miles said. “They only count as one, but I think the guys feel, ‘Hey, if we can beat those guys, then we can hang with anybody.’ That’s an important part of the creep, crawl, walk, run building process.”

Reach Brian Rosenthal at brosenthal@journalstar.com.

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