LINCOLN — In Big Ten men’s basketball, Nebraska is last in scoring offense while Wisconsin is first in scoring defense.
Which should make for another long day Sunday when the Huskers (9-5, 0-1) host the Badgers (10-4, 1-0), right?
Not in the mind of NU coach Tim Miles.
Moments after Nebraska’s 70-44 loss to Ohio State four days ago, Miles used the words “winnable game” to assess the Wisconsin matchup and said he had been eyeing the Badgers.
“We have to have the mindset that it’s a winnable game,” he said. “I would question if that was the mindset going into Ohio State.
“I hoped there was a way we could win that game, but I’m not sure that we really truly felt that way. So I want to set the tone early. We’re expecting to win games. And I think we can win the game.”
Wisconsin, so far this season, hasn’t looked like the past 14 squads that have reached the NCAA tournament.
The Badgers suffered a major setback in the preseason when point guard Josh Gasser went down with torn knee ligaments. Problems replacing him continue, with Thursday’s Big Ten opener against Penn State as evidence.
Wisconsin struggled to the end against 18-point underdog Penn State before escaping with a 60-51 win, in large part from shooting 26 free throws to one for the Nittany Lions. The Badgers in their home building shot just 38.6 percent from the field, 17.6 percent on 3-pointers and 50 percent on free throws.
“It might not have looked pretty, but it’s a close-out,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said after the game. “The league is going to be pretty tough every game. We expect the same when we go into Nebraska.”
When Miles was asked about Wisconsin’s offensive struggles, he cut in with “I’m not judging anybody’s offense. That would be bad karma.”
Well put, considering Nebraska’s issues with putting the biscuit in the basket.
In its five losses, NU has scored 60, 42, 38, 52 and 44 points. In two losses to Wisconsin last season, the Huskers scored 40 and 45 points.
“The thing they do really well,” NU senior forward Brandon Ubel said, “is they wait for you to make a mistake and they don’t make mistakes themselves.
“For the past three to four years, I think they’ve had the lowest turnover rate in the country, if not the top five. They just don’t make mistakes.”
Wisconsin is first again nationally in fewest turnovers (8.9) and third in assist-to-turnover ratio.
The Badgers also are always ranked high in toughness and physical play. Ubel said many of the younger Huskers got a hard lesson about hard play in the loss to Ohio State.
“Last game was kind of a wake-up call in terms of these guys are playing hard and they are good,” he said. “If we want to win the game, we have to play just as hard, if not harder.
“If we don’t come out with that kind of energy, we could be in some trouble.”
ĽNOTES: Sunday’s game will complete Wisconsin’s tour against the state of Nebraska’s three Division I teams. The Badgers lost to Creighton 84-74 and beat UNO 86-40. ... Freshman Shavon Shields likely will start for the Huskers if Andre Almeida (sprained ankle) can’t play. Backup point guard Mike Peltz (knee) is doubtful. ... Tickets are available for as low as $10.
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