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Huskers able to draw on past experience as COVID pause affects team for second time

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Nebraska vs. Auburn, 12.11

Nebraska guard Bryce McGowens dribbles during the second half against Auburn during a Dec. 11, 2021, game in Atlanta.

The latest episode begins with NU's new QB situation. Plus, the guys share thoughts on some interesting comments from a men's hoops player ... among other Husker topics.

This isn't the first time the Nebraska men's basketball team has had to deal with a COVID-19 pause.

But the hope is, this one doesn't reach the levels last year's did.

After NU postponed Saturday's game at Ohio State because of positive COVID-19 tests, Husker coach Fred Hoiberg gave an update on his team Friday.

"It is eerily similar (to last year)," Hoiberg said. "But hopefully we're not shut down for a month this time. And we'll work very closely with the Big Ten on the scheduling.

"I don't know how that will play out. We'll just have to see where it goes."

Nebraska's players, like the rest of the student and faculty population on campus, were required to take a COVID-19 test with classes at UNL starting on Tuesday. That's when the positive cases popped.

The return to campus testing affected NU's women's team as well — that program has already postponed two games. The men are next scheduled to play Tuesday at home against No. 8 Wisconsin. The status of that contest remains up in the air.

None of NU's players have serious symptoms, Hoiberg said, so it will be a matter of those players returning negative tests and navigating the Big Ten's return-to-play protocols before the Huskers can get back to playing games.

"So we're still a ways from getting past this, but it's nowhere near last year," Hoiberg said. "I think we had, after the shutdown, four days of practice, and then we played 14 games in 29 days."

This year's pause comes almost exactly one year after the Huskers began a monthlong shutdown during the 2020-21 season as COVID-19 made its way through the program.

The rest of the season likely won't look like that. Though the Husker players that went through it last season have some experience to draw on as they do it again in 2022.

"The guys that were here last year understand, it’s a day-by-day thing," NU guard Kobe Webster said. "We have to continue to get in the gym, make sure the guys who are available are staying healthy so it doesn’t linger on, and then the guys that are out, just making sure that they’re doing everything they can to get back healthy, going through whatever protocols they have to go through to get back on the floor."

Nebraska worked out on Wednesday with fewer than 10 total players available. Big Ten rules say a team must have at least seven available scholarship players to field a team, and the Huskers were below that number after testing, and including the injuries to Trevor Lakes and Wilhelm Breidenbach.

Thanks to free COVID-19 years, redshirting players and walk-ons, Nebraska's roster stands at a robust 19 bodies.

"Yesterday we did a shorter team workout — I think there was eight of in there," Webster said. "And with our roster, that seemed like an empty gym."

So while the gym feels empty, Nebraska's healthy players have to maximize their time, Webster said.

"Coach Nate (Loenser) says all the time: You’re going to get out of it whatever you put into it," Webster said. "So if you come in looking to work hard, whether it’s shooting drills, scout, whatever it is, if you work hard you’re going to get something out of it."

All of Nebraska's players are vaccinated, Hoiberg said, and some have begun to receive their booster shots.

But the pandemic remains. So NU will do what it can with its suddenly open schedule.

"From a positional standpoint right now, we're very thin," Hoiberg said. "So we'll just do as much as we can, continue to get guys as much work as we can, and just try to keep them in the best shape possible."

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.

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Assistant sports editor/high schools

A Ravenna native, Chris Basnett joined the Journal Star in 2016 and has more than 20 years of experience covering prep, college, and professional sports.

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