The storyline of Nebraska assistant coach Armon Gates going against his former team Saturday when Northwestern comes to town won't really get off the ground.
Gates was out recruiting Friday as the Huskers returned to the practice floor in preparation for facing the Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. He won't, obviously, have the scout on a roster with which he is very familiar.
"I don't really go there, just out of respect. But he knows those guys. And he's out recruiting today, so he better be very good for us," Nebraska coach Tim Miles cracked Friday afternoon. "I think it's one of those things where when you play another team, you certainly know them. ... We see what they do, and I think that's the most important part."
More importantly for NU, the Huskers saw that what they do now is good enough to win basketball games.
Nebraska (14-11, 4-10 Big Ten) will prepare for the Wildcats coming off a 62-61 Wednesday night win over Minnesota, its first victory since Jan. 14. After a film day Thursday, Friday marked the first time NU returned to the court since the game.
"Let's call it less hysterical," Miles said with a grin on preparing for a game coming off a victory.
The game is a key one in a couple of aspects for Nebraska, which sits a half-game ahead of 13th-place Northwestern (12-12, 3-10) and a half-game behind 11th-place Indiana in the Big Ten standings.
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It is also a chance to continue to build momentum and confidence as the Huskers try to find their way out of the wilderness.
"I believe the guys are in a good spot. As a coach, you worry about them losing hope. Nobody truly quits as a college athlete. Now, you may have a bad outcome — we’ve seen football teams, basketball teams get blown out. But usually that’s because they lose hope," Miles said. "I think that you saw a group that was like, yeah, I see a path where we can still be a viable team and make postseason. I think that’s important, because you don’t want to lose that."
Nebraska found some hope thanks to a couple tweaks in the offense that got Nebraska's guards attacking the rim with more aggression. James Palmer scored 24 points on 7-for-10 shooting while Glynn Watson broke out of his slump with 19 points on 8-for-16 shooting. The Huskers shot 50 percent from the floor as a team.
Now they'll try to duplicate that success against a Northwestern team that has lost five in a row and struggled even more than the Huskers offensively over the past couple weeks.
"I think we have a better understanding of what our most reliable things are, and what we have to do to get there," Miles said. "We weren’t perfect the other night; we had some turnovers late. But I think we have a better idea of where we are now than where we were before."