Maryland vs. Nebraska, 2.6

Nebraska senior guard Glynn Watson (5) drives to the basket on Wednesday against Maryland at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Watson went scoreless in the game, the first time that's happened since his freshman season.

How does Nebraska basketball find fun in a season that has become decidedly un-fun?

Well, the Huskers go to Mackey Arena and play a Purdue team they've never beaten in West Lafayette, Indiana.

OK, so it's not like NU is going there by choice. It's the next game on the schedule and it comes at what could conservatively be called a rough time in this season.

But the search for anything resembling a spark does not stop, even if the ball has stopped going in the basket. Nebraska and its floundering offense will take on the Boilermakers in a 7:30 p.m. tip, with the game televised on BTN.

There's a term used in sports used to describe individuals who lose the ability to do something they've done their entire lives. In this case, it seems to have infected Nebraska's entire roster.

On offense, the Huskers have the yips.

"This is unique. I’ve seen crises of confidence, and this is certainly one of them. But this was unanticipated. So sometimes you know going into the year, hey, we’re going to hit some struggles," NU coach Tim Miles said Friday. "Now, I always think three-point shooting might be there, but when it drains into your two-point shooting, your free throws, your practice, it’s like a virus. You’ve just got to flush it out of your system."

There are 353 Division I basketball teams. As of Friday afternoon, 352 of them had played at least one game in February.

Nebraska is tied for 350th in field-goal percentage at .291.

Only one team, 3-21 Chicago State at 26 percent, shot it worse through the first seven days of the month. Throw in January, when things first began to go south, and Nebraska ranks 343rd nationally in field-goal percentage at .381. That includes two games at the beginning of January in which NU shot 47 percent and 49 percent.

All from a team that averaged 80 points per game from the start of the season through the end of December while shooting 47 percent from the floor over its first 13 games.

Nebraska's coaching staff had a difficult enough task in redefining their team after the loss of Isaac Copeland. Now they must lead their players back from the offensive abyss in a league that preys indiscriminately on any weakness.

"The one thing you can't do is just say, 'Be confident!' So you look for little successes and just try to build off that," Miles said. "Try and dominate their time — hit them on text when they're at home. Give them the same message from different people over and over.

"Just that you love them, you're there for them, let's not overthink anything, let's just keep going."

So Nebraska (13-10, 3-9 Big Ten) will keep going. Senior guard Glynn Watson did so in the minutes after the loss to Maryland, a game in which he went 0-for-10 and was held scoreless for the first time since his freshman season. Watson, still in his uniform, shot silently for 30 minutes in an empty Pinnacle Bank Arena with a handful of NU managers rebounding for him.

"Just trying to clear my mind," Watson said. "I know I had a bad shooting night. I just needed to clear my mind."

Miles said a handful players stayed after practice Thursday and played one-on-one, getting back to their roots in basketball and trying to find the fun again.

At this point, having fun over the final month of the season takes precedence over anything else.

"We have to find a little bit of joy in this — in the journey and the fight. And it hasn't been very joyful," Miles said. "We have to enjoy the fight and the battle. And when you're mired in a losing streak, it just feels like you're sloshing around in the mud. 

"And you have to be able to dust yourself off and pull your bootstraps up and go get ’em."

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


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

Load comments