Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
Nebraska looking to erase the memory of last year’s 36-point loss
Monday night was about surviving against an Illinois team desperately searching for a spark.
But when No. 23 Michigan comes to Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday night, Nebraska will have a chance to make a statement and add to the Huskers postseason resume.
Yet even with the chance to upset a ranked opponent, Miles was quick to point out that Nebraska is looking to wipe the taste out of its mouth from last season. That’s after the Wolverines came into Pinnacle Bank Arena on Senior Day, and beat NU by 36 after Michigan shot a PBA-record 63 percent from the field.
NU vs. No. 23 Michigan
Quick hitter about the game goes here.
So when asked about the chance to add a win over a ranked opponent, Miles said that even his 91-year-old father called him this week to talk about last year’s loss, the worst home loss in school history.
“The only thing I’ve talked about is this team walked in here and we set a school record last year. I’ve talked a lot about that,” Miles said. “You never know how the season is going to play out… You can overthink that too.”
Either way, Nebraska will have a chance to win back-to-back conference games for the second time in eight Big Ten contests so far. To do that, though, it will take a focused effort on both ends of the court to keep up with a Michigan team that is also coming off of a dramatic win in the final seconds.
For Michigan, it was a pair of free throws by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman with 1.2 seconds that gave the Wolverines a 68-67 win over Maryland, also on Monday night. That win came on the heels of a 10-point upset of No. 4 Michigan State, and kept Michigan’s momentum flowing heading into PBA.
The key for Michigan has been a balanced offensive attack that features three starters averaging double figures, including Abdur-Rahkman at 10.8 points per game. Leading the way for the Wolverines is the lengthy combo of Charles Matthews and Moritz Wagner, who lead the team at 14.9 PPG.
Matthews is a 6’6” win who transferred from Kentucky, while Wagner adds a shooting touch despite being a 6’11” power forward.
And the scoring threat doesn’t end there. The Wolverines have eight players that have made at least 10 3-pointers this year, including four shooters that are currently hitting at 40 percent or better from long range. Duncan Robinson leads Michigan with 39 made ‘3’s and shoots 36.8 percent from deep.
“I wish I just had 1/100th of his power on offense, because he’s a wizard,” Miles said. “They’ve got plenty of firepower… I do think Michigan is an underappreciated team in our league.”
“Nebraska is a much different team than they were last year,” Beilein said. “We have added Charles Matthews, and his transition, sitting out a year, and just getting to know our system and improving, has really helped us. They have three of those guys. That’s been a big difference.”
So what does that mean for on court differences? Beilein said that the addition of James Palmer Jr. has given Nebraska length and athleticism on the perimeter, and compared Palmer to Matthews. Palmer comes into the game tied for eighth in the Big Ten at 15.7 points per game, while Matthews sits tied with Wagner for 12th in the league.
Beilein also said that the new additions this season have allowed Miles to run “different stuff” and mentioned NU’s ability to limit good looks from the perimeter.
“They appear to be better defensively, they have more weapons,” Beilein said, and then turned his attention to the atmosphere at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“We expect a huge crowd, I don’t know if any of you have been there, but it is one of the finer venues for Big Ten basketball. It is loud, it is packed, whatever their capacity is, that is we expect… there won’t be too many teams that go into Nebraska and win this year.”
Thursday’s tip is set for 8 p.m. and will be televised on BTN and available on BTN2GO and Fox Sports Go, and can be heard on Husker Sports Network, Huskers.com or the Huskers App.