Nebraska's basketball players met in their locker room after Thursday's practice and talked about why a win over Creighton Saturday would be important.
James Palmer said the Huskers need to win it for head coach Tim Miles, who has never bested the Bluejays and is famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) 0-14 all time against CU coach Greg McDermott.
Isaac Copeland said NU needs to get a win for senior point guard Glynn Watson, who has three straight losses to the Bluejays.
Then Thomas Allen spoke up with maybe the best point of all.
"We've got to win it for us," he said.
Nebraska (7-2) tries to end a seven-game losing streak to its in-state rival at 5 p.m. Saturday at what will be an electric Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Huskers, at least on paper, would appear to be the more talented team this season. Before the year started, most would probably consider NU a solid favorite to end the losing streak.
Then Creighton (6-2) started letting it fly, as the Jays always do. CU is second nationally in three-point percentage (.458), fourth in field-goal percentage (.525) and ninth in made three-pointers per game (11.5). They pushed No. 1 Gonzaga to the wire one week ago.
"They’re good. Especially because they have no fear at all. Everybody on the court, they can just let it go whenever. We were watching film on them and it’s like, they’re taking shots with a guy right in their face, but they’re five steps off the three-point line and they’re taking them and hitting them," junior forward Isaiah Roby said Friday. "So you’ve got to be ready at all times with a team like that.
"And a team like that, when they’re fearless with their scoring, they can get hot at any time. So you’ve got to be ready at all times."
Now, with Nebraska coming off a loss at Minnesota that Roby said the Huskers felt they "gave away," another layer of intrigue is added in this most interesting of hoops seasons.
Creighton has won each of the last seven matchups by double digits, including last year's tilt in Omaha that went to the final minutes before the Bluejays pulled away with free throws.
Of Miles' 14 losses to McDermott, 11 have come by 10 or more points. Miles was candid Friday in saying the game carries deep meaning for him, both in the scope of Nebraska's season, and for his own career.
"Yeah, I haven’t beat him. So I need to beat him, right? And I won’t be happy 'til we beat them 14 straight," Miles said. "So I got a lot of worrying to do. How old am I? Criminy sakes. This will take me to retirement to get this done. That’s what I’m here for."
"Criminy sakes" would probably a good descriptor for the current state of the Nebraska fan base. A psyche already sensitive when it comes to Creighton's run of success took another hit with Wednesday night's loss to Minnesota.
"I get a lot of people that are like, 'I don’t care how you guys do, just beat Creighton.' And obviously we want to win every game, but there’s a little added incentive when you play somebody that’s from the same state as you," Roby said. "We all want to beat Creighton. So that’s definitely another added motivator."
Motivation won't be in short supply for either side. Creighton, of course, wants to continue its dominance. Nebraska seeks a win that could go down as a signature victory as the season goes on.
"I think we all accept it as a big game. I mean I do, certainly, and I haven’t had any success against McDermott, and we haven’t beaten Creighton yet," Miles said. "So it obviously means a lot, and you try to say it doesn’t mean as much as the last game or the next game, but when you’re in it, it means everything."