Who would have known that when you bought a ticket to the game tonight, you would be purchasing a seat to the "Shavon Shields Show."
I want to say a few things about Shields' performance tonight:
A. This is the GUTTIEST performance I have seen from a Husker post 2000. Period. To come back from that injury and finish the way Shavon did when it was clear he had NO lift off of his foot. Heck, just shaking off the recent shooting woes and turning in a complete GEM of a performance.
B. Shields had a career high 33 points on 8-12 shooting to go along with 5 boards. He had pivotal basket after pivotal basket and completely "willed us" to the win.
C. Shields had 49% of Nebraska's points. I'm pretty sure that probably hasn't been done since the Dave Hoppen era - is there any possible way anyone can research this?
D. Is the one I really want to hit on. 15-15 from the foul line, tying Jack Moore's school record for a single game. You're kidding me, right? A guy who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in FT shooting in recent games doesn't go 11-15... 12-15... heck, even 13-15... But 15-15??? Are you kidding me?
Shavon, YOU ARE A BOSS.
As for the rest of the offense, it's pretty funny that Terran Petteway ("Mr. Consistency") can continue to put in 16-18 every single night and it seems like no big deal. That's where we've gotten to - that's a VERY GOOD THING.
Terran, YOU ARE A BOSS.
There were two other "bosses" in this one as well, but they'll be discussed under "Defense."
Before we get to that, offense wasn't good to close out the half and to start the second. A lot of standing. The matchup zone they play threw us off.
What in God's name was that in bounds pass Nathan Hawkins threw? I suppose he helped redeem himself off of a rebound and quick outlet that led to the final basket of the half but still...
Nebraska was 44% from the field and 89% from the line.
The zone was a complete DEBACLE tonight. And when Benny Parker wasn't on the floor, the defense was VERY average.
Still, overall, it was AWESOME, and that's because of the other two bosses:
Parker and David Rivers.
INSANE GAMES, boys. As in... "Wow."
First of all, Parker. How in the hell does he lock down guys all of a sudden? Well, I know how he does it (effort and fundamentals up the ying yang), but how does he play that hard for 24 minutes? And really, is that all he got? I'm using the unofficial box score from Illinois' website since I haven't received one yet from NU, but is that correct? It seems like he played 35.
David Rivers won't get quite the notice because of his position but he did a great job cutting off drives and understanding where his help was on weak side dribbles. He plays so hard, too.
Nebraska held Illinois under 60 and that's to be commended. I have no idea how Coach has all of a sudden turned this team into an average defensive team from a BAD ONE but he has done it (more on that later).
Nebraska allowed 14 offensive rebounds - bad. Very bad. A couple were particularly bad, most notably Tracy Abrams rebounding his own missed free throw late in the game. NU was lucky that wasn't a disaster. Leslee Smith also looks to be nursing some sore knees because his ups are gone. That rebound in the first half he let go over his head (very easy rebound) was bothersome. I hope he is okay - we need him down the stretch.
David Rivers led the way with 7 boards - 'atta boy!
BALL HANDLING: C+
10 turnovers, 7 assists.
Since we go over this ad nauseam every game, perhaps I should just start "pasting" it.
The norms were true tonight (not to be confused with Norm Peterson):
1. Not a lot of assists, but some of that is also the results of the motion offense.
I define motion as all five guys being involved in passing, screening away from the ball. We are exploiting our quickness and neutralizing our size disadvantage that way, and all five guys can be on the perimeter at times. I think that type of offense, with our individual creators, is just going to make that stat not overly sexy.
2. Petteway with too many turnovers (a team leading 4).
3. Tai Webster mostly a non-factor. Chalk this up to a freshman being a freshman and Benny Parker playing like his life depends on it.
I want to do something I haven't done all year but should have.
Let's focus on the ENTIRE COACHING STAFF. You guys are AWESOME, from Teddy on up to Tim. From recruiting to game plans, working with players to in game adjustments, you guys are pretty damn good. I am probably as high on Coach Miles as anyone on this board, which is hard to do, but I think Craig Smith is the unsung hero of the staff. I have a feeling we are going to lose him soon, which will be a bittersweet day. Our loss but someone else's gain.
This is stupid to say after tonight but I've got to tell you... I can already see it happening. Coach Miles getting a big job offer after NEXT year. Definitely by the end of year four. I hope like hell we can lock him up for a long, long, long time. It's a bit premature but tell me you didn't think about it, too, after the way things are looking up hill, the momentum and the likeability of this coach, both locally and nationwide.
And, let's not let it be lost that he's not just a funny guy with a great personality. He's also a hell of a basketball coach.
OVERALL GRADE: A
I don't care if Nebraska didn't technically play all facets to a level that equals an "A." As I always say, I want wins.
This is the game Nebraska has pissed away for 15 years. You and I both know it.
Tonight was Nebraska's first four game home conference winning streak since 1998-1999. Yes, that long!
The Huskers won a "must win" game and have all the momentum in the world. Protect your home court and steal one on the road and guess what... you have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament with a win in the Big 10 Tournament.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves... Let's just savor that we were picked in last place and are currently tied for 6th and RELEVANT in year two... and let's savor the fact that we are three wins away from the NIT, which seems like a near lock at this point.
Also, THANK YOU PENN STATE. If we win at Indiana, we are "in" over them.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: SHAVON SHIELDS
2013-2014 PLAYER OF THE GAME RESULTS:
TERRAN PETTEWAY - 11
SHAVON SHIELDS - 4
WALTER PITCHFORD - 3
TAI WEBSTER - 2
LESLEE SMITH - 2
DEVERELL BIGGS - 1