LINCOLN — This Nebraska-Ohio State series in men’s basketball isn’t working out so hot for the Huskers. Since joining the Big Ten, NU is 0-3 against the Buckeyes.
But that hardly explains the ugliness.
In two trips to OSU, Nebraska lost by 31 and 26 points (71-40, 70-44). Last year in Lincoln, the Buckeyes won 79-45. The 34-point loss was the worst at home for NU in its 116-year history.
Signs of a different result Saturday when Nebraska (11-11, 2-7) hosts Ohio State (16-4, 6-2) aren’t readily apparent.
NU is coming off an 84-65 thrashing at Minnesota, and it was that close only because junior guard Ray Gallegos poured in a career-high 30 points. The Buckeyes, ranked No. 11, have won five of six games.
Oh, and did we mention OSU has the Big Ten’s leading scorer (forward Deshaun Thomas, 20.3 points a game) and the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year (guard Aaron Craft)?
It looks bleak for the Huskers. But that’s the kind of thinking NU coach Tim Miles said Friday he is trying to get away from.
“If we think we can win,’’ he said, “we play that way.’’
So the team spent more than an hour before Thursday’s practice discussing why in some games the Huskers seem to play like mice and others like men.
“For whatever reason,’’ senior forward Brandon Ubel said, “half the games in the Big Ten, it’s not there. I don’t see how we can’t get excited for these kinds of game.’’
Nebraska’s margin for error in talent and depth this season is so slim, Miles said, that playing with an attitude is mandatory for any chance of success.
“You can get conditioned to winning, and you can get conditioned to losing,’’ he said. “I don’t think we expect enough out of ourselves yet.
“I’m not sympathetic to a bad mentality. That’s not going to get us very far in life.’’
Ubel is trying to convince his teammates an upset of Ohio State is possible.
“Watching them on film, we feel they are a team that can be beat,’’ Ubel said. “When we get them in here, we think we have a really good shot at doing that.
“But like Coach said and I said, we’ve got to have the mentality of ‘We need to prove that’ not that ‘I hope it goes well.’”
Nebraska must learn to put reputations aside, Ubel said.
“It’s easy to have a lot of confidence against — no disrespect to them — a team like Penn State or Northwestern where you feel like you have more talent than them,’’ he said.
“Then you go up against a Minnesota or an Ohio State and see guys projected to go to the NBA. We need to look at that more as ‘I want to prove I’m better than them’ instead of looking at them like ‘Wow, they are really good.’”
The up-and-down mindset is particularly frustrating, Miles said, because it is something the team can control but hasn’t.
“We showed no fight against Ohio State,’’ he said. “And if it wasn’t for Ray Gallegos, it would have been Ohio State all over again at Minneapolis.
“Ohio State, they expect to win. It’s that simple. And they play accordingly.’’
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