Tim Miles' team is on the road for the third time in its past four games, this time for a Friday night contest against Penn State.
It'll be a much different atmosphere than the Nebraska men's basketball team faced in its most recent road test, a 74-62 loss Saturday against then-No. 13 Purdue.
“It will be less energetic in terms of that sheer enthusiasm for the game,” Miles, the sixth-year Husker head coach, said of the 6 p.m. game at Bryce Jordan Center (capacity 15,261) in State College, Pennsylvania. “It’s a larger facility. They don’t draw quite as well (as the Boilermakers), so it’s a little quieter. There will be big, spacious, empty spots where noise goes to die.
“So you’ve got to bring your own energy. Your team’s got to be talking to each other. They have to be ready to go from the hop because Pat Chambers’ teams always play really hard no matter what. They create energy like crazy.”
Nebraska (12-6, 3-2 Big Ten) has won five of its past six games, including a 63-59 triumph against Wisconsin on Tuesday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The Huskers’ 12-6 overall record is their best through 18 games in the past eight seasons.
Miles’ squad already has a Big Ten road win, a 70-55 triumph Jan. 2 at Northwestern. That said, Nebraska senior guard Evan Taylor recognizes the challenge Penn State (12-6, 2-3) presents.
A quiet arena also can be a challenge for a visiting team.
As for creating energy, “It starts with the starting five and myself being a captain, but also our bench is important,” Nebraska senior guard Evan Taylor said. “Our bench has been great this year. The louder they are, the more into the game they are, the more players on the court feed into that.”
Nebraska freshman guard Thomas Allen, who scored eight points in 15 minutes of action against Wisconsin, said pregame warmups can be helpful in generating energy.
As for Allen generating points — he had scored only five in the Huskers' previous four Big Ten games — he said his comfort on offense against Wisconsin stemmed in part from teammates setting good screens.
He said his confidence hasn’t wavered.
“Tom’s got great confidence in himself,” Miles said. “You can see it in the way he plays. I think, in his mind, it’s like, ‘I could do this every day, coach. Just get me out there.’ That’s the cool thing about him, he doesn’t act like a freshman.”
At any rate, Friday’s game should give Nebraska an opportunity to find more offensive rhythm than the game against Wisconsin because the Badgers played a slow and, well, ugly game.
However, Miles will caution his team to be ready for Penn State’s aggressiveness on defense.
“Penn State can really guard you with pressure, and it’s almost like feast or famine,” Miles said.
PSU may get some steals — it ranks first in the Big Ten with an average of 8.8 per game — “yet you can get some high-percentage shots off of that, too, whereas Wisconsin is just kind of a rock fight,” Miles said. “They’re just in position (defensively) all the time. There’s just nothing easy.
“They’ve been really good, and they’ve had some tough times, too."
Sort of like his own team.
“I think our team’s in a pretty good spot overall,” Miles said. “But we know we’re not playing our best basketball. I remember speaking with Glynn (Watson) and Evan the other day. I asked what’s your biggest frustration. It was that we’re not all hitting on the same cylinders. We have two guys going some nights and four on others, but we don’t have all six or seven guys going.
“It’s a good problem to have. But we all want to reach our potential. And we don’t want to be sitting here in five weeks saying the same thing. But just getting everybody on the same page in terms of feeling comfortable in their role takes some time.
“The guys really do care. That’s the cool part.”