Published Friday, February 7, 2014 at 8:21 pm / Updated at 8:29 pm
BASKETBALL
Husker players, Miles talk, want traction on the road
Nebraska at Northwestern
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena
TV: ESPNU
Radio: 1110 AM KFAB

Nebraska (11-10, 3-6)
F Walter Pitchford, 6-10, So., 8.4
F Shavon Shields, 6-7, So., 11.0
G Terran Petteway, 6-6, So., 17.5
G Ray Gallegos, 6-2, Sr., 7.9
G Tai Webster, 6-4, Fr., 5.4

Northwestern (12-11, 5-5)
C Alex Olah, 7-0, So., 8.1
G Kale Abrahamson, 6-7, So., 4.0
G Drew Crawford, 6-5, Sr., 16.3
G JerShon Cobb, 6-5, Jr., 11.4
G Sanjay Lumpkin, 6-6, Fr., 4.0

LINCOLN — The Nebraska men’s basketball team didn’t practice Thursday, but it was far from a day off.

Coming off a 29-point loss at No. 10 Michigan — and it could have been by 40 or more because the Wolverines scored only six points in the final 11 minutes — coach Tim Miles decided inspiration was more important than perspiration.

So he met individually with most players to discuss how to break a 0-for-the-season road skid ahead of Saturday’s game at Big Ten surprise Northwestern (12-11, 5-5).

“It was more of a regrouping day,” Miles said Friday. “I felt the most we were going to get out of our team was by sitting down face to face and talking about, ‘What do you think?’ and ‘Where are you at?’

“(At Michigan), they didn’t act like a team that had just won three out of four. They acted like a team that was, ‘Oh, boy, here we go again.’ ”

The discussions encouraged Miles.

“They are willing to accept whatever it takes to find a way to win,” he said. “If we play completely zone defense, they’re fine with that. If I sub this kid in you’ve never heard of, they’re fine.

“They’re really on board to try to get this program up and running.”

Forward Shavon Shields said he benefited from his heart to heart with Miles.

“It’s good to hear where he is coming from,” the sophomore co-captain said. “He has his opinion and I have mine. We have the type of relationship where I can tell him the truth and it won’t hurt his feelings, and he can tell me the truth and it won’t hurt mine.

“You’ve got to be openly honest to figure out what’s going on.”

Especially when your conference road record, going back five years to this week, is 4-39.

The most noticeable change resulting from Miles’ meetings likely will be the Huskers (11-10, 3-6) slowing the pace.

They played deliberately at Purdue and Penn State and were in position to win both games entering the final minute. They tried to run with Michigan and got hammered.

“We’re going to control tempo on the road,” Miles said. “If that’s slow, then that means we’re going to play slow. That would be my gut instinct of what this team needs.

“And you don’t win on the road if you don’t set the tone defensively.”

Northwestern changed tempo from fast to slow a month ago after a 0-3 Big Ten start, and has gone 5-2 since with three straight league road wins — a first in 54 years.

The Wildcats, under first-year coach Chris Collins, are first in the Big Ten and 32nd nationally in scoring defense (63.3 points). They have done it by milking the shot clock on offense and playing a sagging, protect-the-lane defense with a long-limbed starting lineup of players standing 6-foot-5 to 7-foot.

Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht

lee.barfknecht@owh.com    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.

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