Going Deep: Another Shot at Creighton
Yes, Nebraska felt a jolt of confidence after putting together a feel-good, complete performance in Tuesday’s 78-68 victory over No. 14 Minnesota.
In fact, maybe too much confidence.
“We came off a big win,” sophomore wing Isaiah Roby said, “so we came into practice kind of nonchalant, I guess you could say, and Coach Miles, he wasn’t having any of that.”
Can’t afford to. Not with two more heavyweights looming, beginning Saturday (1:31 p.m., FS1) at instate rival Creighton.
“He’s ready to go. He’s fired up,” Roby said. “He wants to beat those guys bad, and we do, too. It’s definitely a big game for us.”
Of course, it’s been well-documented Nebraska coach Tim Miles, in his sixth season with the Huskers, is oh-fer against Creighton coach Greg McDermott, going back to their days coaching in Division II. Miles jokes about it with the media, noting McDermott gets the best of him on the golf course, too.
“I try not to make too big of a deal of it with our guys,” Miles said of Nebraska’s six-game skid in the Creighton series, “because I don’t think … this is on me, not them.”
If Nebraska (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten Conference) approaches Creighton with the same tenacity with which it played against Minnesota, the Huskers could very well end the Jays’ stronghold on the series -- and get a monkey of Miles’ back in the process.
From start to finish, the Huskers had a boost of energy, particularly on the defensive end, against a Gopher team that had been averaging 89 points.
“I don’t know what it was. Maybe the crowd got us going or something,” Roby said. “Watching tape, you could definitely see a different team. We still have a lot to improve on, which is a good thing, because if you play the No. 14 team in the country and you didn’t play a perfect game, then you’ve got a lot more to show. It’s definitely encouraging, and it shows we can do it with anybody.”
Yes, even Creighton. But it won’t be easy.
“We have to look at how we can get them under control,” Miles said. “They’ve got four guards who can start for most teams. Those two freshman guards are terrific; (Ty-Shon) Alexander and (Mitch) Ballock are really good. Of course, those wings, Kyhri (Thomas) and (Marcus) Foster are really strong, powerful wings. They remind me of a Petteway-Shields kind of duo, and they shoot it better.”
Creighton (6-2) averages 92.5 points and shoots 52 percent, including 39 percent from three-point range. In other words, this bunch looks like every other Creighton team the Huskers have seen for nearly a decade.
Plus, these Bluejays are capable of busting out to one of those big, early leads that’s made CenturyLink Center a house of horrors for Nebraska in some past meetings.
“It’s just staying in the moment, not letting the crowd get to us, not let anybody try to play hero ball, one-on-one, because they play as a team,” Roby said. “They average like 21 assists a game, so they’re not going to try to go hero ball on us, so we can’t do it to them, either.”
This Nebraska teams seems better equipped to do that. The Huskers are averaging more than four more assists per game compared to this time last season, and are getting assists on 57.5 percent of their made field goals. That’s the highest such rate in Miles’ 13-year career as a Division I coach.
Nebraska is also deeper, with more balanced scoring. In all seven wins, the Huskers have at least three double-figure scorers. Nebraska is a tenth-of-a-point (Anton Gill, 9.9 points per game) from having four players average double-figure scoring. The Huskers haven’t had a team do that since 1993-94.
One of those players is Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland. He averages 12 points a game, and Nebraska is 5-0 when he scores in double figures, with a margin of victory of 14.2 points in those wins.
Here’s another fact: Copeland has played five times against Creighton, including a seven-point, seven-assist, 10-rebound performance in a 74-73 Georgetown win his sophomore season.
So yes, somebody on the Nebraska team has experienced victory over Creighton.
“The worm has turned,” Miles quipped.
We’ll find out for sure Saturday.
Huskers Cruising in Tourney
So many people who’ve watched the Nebraska volleyball team dominate its first three matches of the NCAA Tournament have wondered the same thing:
Why isn’t this team a top four seed hosting a regional?
Nebraska coach John Cook on Friday assured everyone there's a reason Kentucky is playing at home.
Saturday is Kentucky’s chance to prove its worthy of it seeding and location The No. 4 Wildcats, led by former Nebraska assistant Craig Skinner, will host No. 5 Nebraska in the regional finals, with the winner advancing to next weekend’s Final Four in Kansas City, Missouri.
Nebraska (29-4) has won 16 straight matches and is seeking three straight Final Fours for the first time in program history.
How dominant has Nebraska been in the postseason? Well, the Huskers have trailed for just 15 rallies over a total of 356 rallies in the NCAA Tournament, and 14 of those were against Colorado.
Kentucky, meanwhile, has played more sets (10) in its last two matches, both at home, than Nebraska has in the entire tournament (9). The Huskers were one of six teams to enter the weekend unbeaten in sets, and two (Colorado and BYU) lost matches Friday in Lexington.
“We did a nice job of taking care of business today,” John Cook said after the 25-19, 25-11, 25-21 victory over former conference foe Colorado. "I told our team it's going to be a fun match (Saturday)."
Frost Completes Staff
They say don’t mess with a good thing.
Nebraska coach Scott Frost is heeding that phrase in completing his Husker football staff.
Frost made things official Friday when he announced Troy Walters, Sean Beckton and Zach Duval will join the Nebraska staff. It means Frost will keep his full-time UCF on-field coaching staff intact at Nebraska. Makes sense, given the Knights went from 0-12 to 6-6 to 12-0 and a Peach Bowl berth with this talented group of coaches.
Walters, a finalist for the 2017 Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach, will serve as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator and receivers coach, while Beckton will coach Nebraska’s tight ends.
A Nebraska graduate, Duval will serve as the Head Football Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Huskers. He began his strength and conditioning career at Nebraska in 1994 and worked in various roles with the Husker Power program for nearly a decade.
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.