LINCOLN — Talk about a role reversal.
Tuesday night’s Big Ten men’s basketball game in Minneapolis features a Nebraska team picked to finish last in the league that has some momentum and a Minnesota squad once ranked as high as No. 8 in the nation with none.
The Huskers (11-10, 2-6) have won two of their past three games. The 23rd-ranked Gophers (15-5, 3-4) have lost four straight.
NU coach Tim Miles has no illusions that recent results predict future outcomes.
“They are going to be loaded for bear,” Miles said Monday. “They are tired of talking about it and hearing about it. And they’ll play with a lot of fire in their eyes.”
For Nebraska, Miles hopes beating Penn State and Northwestern in the past 10 days is “a shot in the arm.”
“The guys just need to understand to believe in the system and put in the work every possession they are out there,” he said. “Our margin for error is slim, so we have to battle our butts off every second we are out there. That’s a mentality.”
Going on the road generally hasn’t affected the Huskers’ mindset.
NU has victories at Wake Forest and Penn State, plus strong showings at No. 1 Michigan and No. 13 Michigan State.
“We’ve been playing well on the road, so we’ve got some confidence,” senior forward Brandon Ubel said. “But we don’t want to just be competitive. We want to win.”
Guard Ray Gallegos could help with that by shaking his current slump.
The green light still glows for the junior from Salt Lake City, despite a 3-point accuracy rate in Big Ten play of 23.6 percent (17 of 72).
“No one is harder on himself than Ray,” Miles said. “There is a young guy who is working on it, and I was so happy to see him have success the second half (against Northwestern).”
Gallegos hit three 3-pointers in a row early in the second half to help Nebraska build an 11-point lead on the Wildcats.
“I know if we can get him good looks, he’ll make them,” Miles said. “Sometimes, we throw a lot of pressure on him. If we can’t get anything going, I’ll run him off screens going 100 mph away from the basket.
“Everyone’s keying on him. His man is on him and the defender is hedging. We’ve put him in some tough spots, but I think he’s done a good job.”
Gallegos said he doesn’t stress much about his shooting.
“You’re always going to have nights where it doesn’t go in,” he said. “The last couple of games, I’ve been pretty off. My mindset is to get up extra shots and get a rhythm going again and eventually it will fall.”
NOTES: Ubel is the Big Ten’s fourth-leading rebounder at 7.0 a game. ... Minnesota leads the country in offensive rebounding. Said Ubel: “A lot of times their best offense isn’t their first shot but their second shot.” ... Sophomore Elliott Eliason from Chadron, Neb., has started 12 games this season for Minnesota, averaging 2.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in 12.9 minutes.
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