MEN'S BASKETBALL: MINNESOTA AT NEBRASKA
LINCOLN — The lopsided Nebraska victory was five minutes away from completion and Tai Webster's services were no longer needed, but his head coach still thought it necessary to share a quick word of encouragement.
As much success as the Huskers enjoyed — they finished Saturday's 90-56 win over Rutgers with a season-high 56.9 shooting percentage — Webster's six point performance had a few frustrating moments.
He missed seven close-range shots — seven trips to the rim, seven missed layups.
So as Webster left the court for the final time Saturday, Tim Miles met the junior guard in front of the bench. Miles put his hands on Webster's hips and shared a message he'd likely repeat to every other Husker player at some point soon.
"Don't judge yourself by the ball not going into the hole," Miles said.
It's why Miles showed Andrew White video clips of his three offensive rebounds Saturday. It's why Miles highlighted EdMorrow's energy-filled 13 minutes — particularly the freshman's three rebounds and his blocked shot. It's why the plan before practice Monday was for GlynnWatson to take about "15" charges, Miles said, because the freshman missed a chance to draw an offensive foul Saturday.
So even though Webster couldn't convert on a handful of opportunities Saturday, it was his assertive ball-handling and aggressive intent that helped created those openings. Miles wants more of that mentality — from everybody.
When guys have the basketball, when they're positioning themselves for rebounds and when they're guarding the opponent.
"Don't base your game on making shots," Miles said. "(It's about) what else can you do for the team?"
Because the presumption is that the shots, even the high-percentage ones, won't always fall.
Nebraska's on a hot streak at the moment, though. The Huskers have made 57.6 percent of their field goals during their past three halves of basketball. They've hit 44 percent of their 3-pointers in that stretch, too.
And their next opponent, Minnesota (6-10, 0-4, 193 RPI), has struggled defensively in its four Big Ten losses, allowing teams to shoot a combined 51.7 percent from the field.
But what if NU's shots are clanging off the rim Tuesday night?
"When you're struggling and not making shots, it's kind of crashing everything in and it makes it tougher," senior Shavon Shields said.
Shields noted that offensive rebounds can often pull a team out of a mini-shooting funk. Miles said he'd like to see the Huskers (9-8, 1-3, 194) get to the free-throw line more often.
Nebraska, which averaged 29.8 points in the paint before Saturday's game, got 52 of those at Rutgers. NU was shooting 43.9 percent from the field — and then made more than half its attempts Saturday. The Huskers scored on their first eight trips down the court. They had points on seven of their final 11 possessions of the first half.
"I think it's good for other guys to get it going — especially in Big Ten play — to see the ball go in and play well together as a team," Shields said.
Now they have to build on it, even if those same shots are missed.
Said Miles: "I just hope we can continue to sustain good offensive effort."
Senior Shavon Shields will make his 100th consecutive start Tuesday. Dave Hoppen is the only other Nebraska player to have accomplished that feat.
Minnesota has lost its last five games and eight of its last nine. The Gophers were waxed at home by Northwestern on Saturday, losing by 25 points.
The Huskers expect to see some full-court ball pressure from Minnesota, which has forced an average of 12.4 opponent turnovers per game. NU committed 20 turnovers in a 6042 loss to the Gophers last year.
Nebraska now ranks 65th nationally (out of 351 teams) and sixth in the Big Ten in rebounding margin. The Huskers are outrebounding their opponents by an average of 5.1 boards per game).