Greg McDermott

Greg McDermott received some criticism from Husker fans after saying Nebraska was "desperate for a win."

Desperation is a dependable source of failure.  

You can find countless examples on Wall Street, in political campaigns, on battlefields throughout history, even at your local college bar on a Friday night.

But every once in a while, desperation is the source of success.

Creighton basketball has spent the past 20 years humiliating Nebraska, going 16-4 in the rivalry from 1999-2017. We so often went into the matchup thinking the Jays and Huskers were fairly equal. Then they stepped on the court and Creighton looked like the Boston Celtics.

But Saturday night in Lincoln, James Palmer needed less than three minutes to show he didn’t care about history. And after 10 minutes the Huskers were like Ralphie beating up the playground bully in “A Christmas Story.” 

“They played like a veteran team that was desperate for a win,” Greg McDermott said. "They were really good today.”

Ahhh, there’s that word again. 

Why was Nebraska desperate? McDermott mentioned Nebraska's loss at Minnesota Wednesday — “some things kinda went haywire on ‘em.” 

Then, with a smile, he stated the obvious: “And we've beaten them seven times in a row. So talk about desperation. ... Those seniors have got a lot of pride. They've played a lot of basketball. They've won a lot of games."

McDermott took a lot of flak from Husker fans Saturday night. But I don't buy the idea he was poking Nebraska here. He was showing legitimate respect (and common sense) for Palmer, Isaac Copeland and Glynn Watson, whom he’s known since the point guard was 16 — “He’s a tough little cookie.”

The truth is McDermott nailed it, as he usually does*. Desperation fueled Nebraska’s breakthrough Saturday. It revved up the crowd, which helped sustain NU's energy level, which helped the Huskers win the hustle plays all night. It won’t be easy for Nebraska to replicate Saturday’s performance because it won’t be easy to replicate that sense of desperation. 

Mac's ability to present concise analysis is as good as it gets in the coaching business. If he ever wants a job in TV someday, he'd be great.

But there are lessons the Huskers should take. Like the importance of pace. They lost at Minnesota partly because they bogged down on offense. Watson mentioned this Saturday night, too. 

The Huskers aren't deep, but they need to play as fast as possible. Transition is where their athleticism really shines. They won't hit 14 of 27 3-pointers every night, but they can get rhythm baskets if they push tempo. 

Another lesson: the importance of Thomas Allen. The sophomore shooting guard won’t always score 18, but he’s a critical piece of Nebraska’s offense. He can buffer Nebraska from scoring droughts. 

Most of this season, he’s been a downgrade from Anton Gill and Evan Taylor. But if Allen can be an upgrade, like Saturday, the Huskers have a very high ceiling.

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>> Driving back to Omaha Saturday night, all sorts of basketball thoughts bounced around my brain. 

Why were Creighton’s big men so ineffective? What in the world got into Allen? How long until McDermott and Miles play golf together again?

But one thought stood out: Creighton fans won't forget this.

Nebraska made sure of that. It wasn’t just winning by 19, it was the whole environment. 

Students dressed as FBI investigators and the $100,000 fake check and frequent chants of “Greg's a cheater.” It was T-shirts mocking “Jayskers” and a string of fan tweets on the big screen that included “F*** Creighton." 

The Jays may have been surprised, but they didn’t cower. Ty-Shon Alexander was talking trash to the crowd. Mitch Ballock was jawing at the Husker bench. 

I’ve been to hateful rivalry games. Kansas-Missouri at Allen Fieldhouse. South Dakota-South Dakota State in Vermillion. Nebraska-Creighton has never reached those levels. But man ... Saturday night will move the ball in a more passionate direction. 

A little blood boiling isn’t so bad. Both programs joined new conferences this decade. The Huskers lost whatever tradition they had with Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas State, etc. The Jays lost their feud with Wichita State.

Nebraska won’t inspire animosity in any Big Ten arenas. Creighton isn’t going to see fake $100,000 checks from any Big East adversaries. 

So why can't they fill that hole for each other? A more competitive, more intense Nebraska-Creighton rivalry will make both sides a little angrier. 

But a little better, too. 

>> Wildest NFL Sunday of the season? 

My goodness, how many moments do you get like Miami’s miracle against New England? And how many times do you see a pass like Patrick Mahomes’ running strike to Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-9?

And how often do you get to see Mark Sanchez start an NFL game?!? 

Back to Mahomes. I don't know if this will be the Chiefs’ year, but the 2020s might be the Chiefs' decade. Mahomes’ combination of “arm talent” and mobility is equal to John Elway, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. He’s got the moxie, too. And unlike Jared Goff, apparently, Mahomes isn't scared of cold weather.

The Bears selected Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2 in the 2017 draft. Any other year, Bears' fans should be thrilled with that pick. But Mahomes went 10th. And nine teams are looking pretty foolish right now.

>> Finally, four straight Final Fours for Husker volleyball. A 20-1 record in the NCAA tournament for Mikaela Foecke and Kenzie Maloney. I guess nothing should surprise us about John Cook's program anymore, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t marvel. 

From 1995-98, Terry Pettit reached a high level, qualifying for three Final Fours in four years. Cook climbed even higher from 2005-08. But I didn't see this run coming, especially after the Rolfzens graduated. Nebraska hasn't been the nation's most awe-inspiring program the past two years, but it's figured out how to peak in December.

The Huskers will be the lowest-seeded team in Minneapolis this weekend. But look at the track record. Would you bet against them?

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Reporter - Sports

Dirk writes stories and columns about Husker football in addition to covering general assignments and enterprise for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @dirkchatelain. Phone: 402-444-1062.

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