I didn't think Nebraska played as poorly as their shooting percentage (39%) would show, especially in the first ten minutes of the first half.
In fact, early on I was impressed with how many good looks the Huskers got, from wide open three's by Walter Pitchford and Ray Gallegos, to Shavon Shields and Leslee Smith going to the rim. The Huskers just weren't knocking down the shots in the opening ten minutes and then, NU seemed to get into a lull of bad offense for the final 10:00 of the half (with too many turnovers) before stepping it up and finishing strong in the second half (38 points on 48% shooting).
I think this was the first game where Nebraska looked unselfish, almost to a fault on a couple of occasions (most notably by Deverell Biggs). The Huskers took MAYBE two bad shots the entire night, which is very encouraging considering just two weeks ago, that number would be twelve bad shots. NU was also a VERY GOOD 77% from the free throw line (17-22).
It really does look as if NU is becoming a more cohesive offensive unit and I thought they showed a lot of positive in this game, if you're astute enough to look beyond the numbers.
I don't care if Miami is very down this year, and I don't care if they're on the end of a ten day road trip. Heck, I don't even care if they normally make a few more shots.
That's because what Nebraska did on defense tonight was AWESOME, as the Big Red held the Hurricanes to just THIRTEEN POINTS!!! in the first half and for the game, 49 points on just 32% shooting.
I saw Shields and Pitchford playing the best defense of the year, and I liked that Nebraska made a conscious effort in the second half to turn Miami over by taking some chances. Even though that didn't really work, it also didn't allow any baskets, either.
For a team that was awful on defense for the majority of the Charleston Classic, this was a very nice effort.
For a second straight game, Nebraska was even on the boards (34-34) and Smith had another outstanding effort (10 rebounds in 23 minutes). That's almost good enough to give him the nod as "Player of the Game" but I want to give it to Pitchford, who finished with thirteen points and five which (as is a common theme throughout this report card) is a nice improvement.
BALL HANDLING: A-
11 turnovers (very good), 12 assists (pretty good).
Take out a couple of careless Tai Webster turnovers (as Coach Miles noted on the postgame) and all of a sudden you're under ten.
The one negative I saw tonight was that NU looked very gun shy against the press that Miami threw out in the final 5:00 of the game. There was a horrible turnover by Biggs (and almost a second earlier, where he threw his elbows) and a couple by Webster. You can be CERTAIN that NU will be seeing A LOT of full court looks from Creighton on Sunday, so this better be practiced and then practiced again. Pitchford also looked uncomfortable and unprepared when Miami turned up the intensity and heat on him in the early stages of the second half.
As mentioned above, NU did a MUCH BETTER JOB of distributing the ball, almost to a point where it was TOO unselfish.
Spacing was bad against the matchup zone on certain possessions but the best news was, NU seemed to understand what they were up against and executed the game plan more times than not.
Get the rotation trimmed to eight (really seven and a half) guys? Check.
Get through to team on how to play together and in an unselfish manner? Check.
Improve vastly on defense? Check.
Get a double digit win against an ACC opponent? Check.
Show confidence in your freshman point guard, leaving him out there against the "Hack A Tai" defense? Check.
I loved everything Coach Miles did tonight - I have zero complaints.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
Highly entertaining? Not really.
Impressive win? Yes.
Nebraska played terrific defensively, improved offensively and took care of business at home against a team it should beat.
They were lucky that Miami showed a little press, albeit Mickey Mouse, because we'll be seeing that a lot this Sunday and any practice against it in a game is a bonus, PLUS now the team will really understand they need to take it seriously after being shown up on a few possessions.
Nebraska is only one win off the pace that even the most optimistic fan would want, and they have a true "gravy game" Sunday. Win, and you're on track for "best case scenario."
Lose, and you're still only two games off the pace with a chance to still defeat Cincinnati to get right back on it.
This team is showing obvious signs of growing and improvement, and while tonight's game isn't one I ever care to watch again, it was a good effort and something to take many positives from.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: WALTER PITCHFORD
2013-2014 PLAYER OF THE GAME TOTALS:
TERRAN PETTEWAY - 3
TAI WEBSTER - 2
LESLEE SMITH - 1
SHAVON SHIELDS - 1
WALTER PITCHFORD - 1
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