Walking into a locker room after the last game of the season is a little like being the new guy in town who walks into a saloon for the first time in old westerns.
At least that's how it felt Sunday night when a reporter walked into Nebraska's locker room after the Huskers' 88-72 loss to TCU in the second round of the NIT.
There was a little bit of an odd vibe. There was the disappointment that comes with the season being over, and for the four NU seniors healthy enough to play, the beginning of the realization that their college careers has just ended as well.
Add the uncertainty of their coach's job situation, and things could have gotten uncomfortable pretty quickly.
But they didn't. After an inspiring run to end the season, the Huskers seemed to appreciate what they were able to accomplish late in the year rather than dwell on what could have been.
"I wouldn’t trade this run for nothing," James Palmer said. "I think we kind of made history with seven guys, you know, doing what we did in the Big Ten Tournament. And just overcoming adversity and stuff like that."
The adversity was a little too much against the Horned Frogs, especially after Isaiah Roby picked up his fifth foul and was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul midway through the second half.
As his teammates peeled off their jerseys and cut tape off their ankles or checked their phones, Roby sat patiently in his locker, having long since changed out of his red uniform.
"It's (foul trouble) always tough considering how many guys we already have, and as important a player as Isaiah Roby is, it's tough that it happened to him," Johnny Trueblood said. "But I think we fought hard, and credit to all these guys. It was a fun game and we never gave up."
If there was any bitterness for how things played out this season, Nebraska's players weren't showing it.
"Just going in the locker room I told the guys, this was really an enjoyable year. We had the big sandwich, right? We played great early, then we were not good in the middle. Even with injuries, we were just not in a good spot, then we ended really well," NU coach Tim Miles said. "And I said, you can hold your head high. You can look at the crowd for the (home) NIT game. Three times bigger than the next-closest one.
"You look at the spirit I think that they kindled in Husker fans, that should say a lot about them. That’s something they can be proud of and hold their head up and be proud about, and know that as you go through life you don’t quit, and you keep putting your best foot forward and keep battling."