Not since Dorothy returned to Kansas in The Wizard of Oz has someone been so happy to come back home. Not only is Tim Miles’s squad is coming off consecutive conference road losses, but if they were to take down Penn State on Thursday, it’ll be their 20th straight home win, which would tie a school record.
Against the Nittany Lions, Nebraska has the perfect opportunity for a bounce back victory. Penn State is a sub .500 team that is still without a win in the Big 10.
“I think it’s going to have a positive impact on us,” senior forward Tanner Borchardt said of playing at Pinnacle Bank Arena again. “Just to be in front of the home floor and the crowd… [we can] get that energy going and hopefully it gives us a boost.”
Miles is well acquainted with his team’s shortcomings away from PBA. “Some of your worst qualities come out on the road. It’s just a fact of life and you have to overcome that,” Miles said. “Sometimes you need to win by 15 in order to win by five.”
Against Iowa on Sunday, Nebraska shot a season low 17.4% from the three point line. They were also out-rebounded by the Hawkeyes 40-31. During the Maryland game, the Huskers fared better from beyond the arc, but were still out hustled on the glass by a 10 rebound margin. Nebraska also shot just 65.3% from the foul line in that game, down from their season average of 73%.
Isaiah Roby told reporters last week that he was angry and frustrated about the Maryland loss, and that he was unable to sleep on the flight home from D.C. That anger could’ve been used as a motivator, but Miles said that the team failed to capitalize. “I said ‘well, we need to stay angry,’ Miles said. “I don’t think we stayed angry.”
Why couldn’t the team rise up to the challenge? According to Miles, it’s down to the team’s demeanor. “This is a more casual team. I think that, one of the things we always work on is getting them locked in and running to the fight.”
Borchardt agreed. “At times, you can see on the floor, we play a little casual, (a) loose with the ball,” Borchardt said. “That’s something we shouldn’t do. We should take every possession like we’re supposed to be there and like it’s a business trip.”
Miles has forced the issue during practice this week. It’s been back down to the fundamentals for the Huskers in the lead up to this game. “We just went back to some real basic things,” Miles said. “(We worked on) A couple of things that were hurting us on the defensive end, for instance, just getting back into defensive transition and guarding screen and roll. We just spent a lot of time on those two things yesterday.”
The back to basics approach could pay off for a team that is still hoping to go dancing come March. They won’t be able to tap their ruby red slippers to avoid playing on the road, though. If Nebraska wants to make it to the NCAA Tournament, they’ll need to find success away from home.