LINCOLN, Neb. - After struggling down the stretch, losing eight straight games, Nebraska heads into the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday needing what head coach Tim Miles called “lightning in a bottle” to return to the NCAA tournament.
At 13-17, Nebraska can’t even play themselves back into the postseason by just making the Big Ten Championship game, it will require five wins.
“I don’t think you can take it in such a big clump,” said Miles, who had a message for his team. “I said ‘just listen, all I really care about is that we bounce back, leave it all on the floor, play as hard as you can, play your butt off.’
“If you look too big, you can bite off more than you can chew. We just talked about beating Penn State.”
At 16-15 on the year, Penn State is looking for a couple wins to bolster their postseason resume. The Nittany Lions could look to sneak into the NIT with a win over Nebraska and possibly Iowa on Thursday.
Earlier this season, the Huskers only managed to score 43 points in State College, losing to Penn State by 13 in their only matchup.
“It’s one I wish I could forget. It’s a reoccurring nightmare. We started off with great defense and had like six points with seven minutes in the first half,” said Miles. “We sort of lost our will to play defense.”
The Nebraska defense held senior guard D.J. Newbill, who is averaging over 20 points a game, to just 11 in the contest.
“He’s a just a great competitor, great kid, and really tough to stop. We will have our hands full with him,” said Miles regarding the second matchup.
After making a late season run last year, Nebraska entered the 2014-15 season with many high outside expectations - expectations that were probably unfair.
“Life is what you make of it at this point,” said Miles. “How do we take that bungee jump straight up to win five in a row, to get where we need to go? I think you start by working hard, by believing in each other, and never quitting.
“I believe they have the right mentality going into the tournament. We are not a perfect team by any stretch of the imagination, but I think our guys have the right attitude…I think our guys believe they can make a run…If we can find some offense out there, our defensive effort has been good.”
Nebraska enters the tourney on the mend, especially in the post. But, Miles reminded the media this time of year everyone’s dealing with injuries.
“Our big guys are banged up a bit, but I think they will have enough momentum and adrenaline to suck it up,” said Miles.
Tip-off between Nebraska and Penn State is set for 3:30 p.m. CT from Chicago, with the winner facing Iowa on Thursday.