LINCOLN — Starting with Saturday’s home game against Northern Illinois, the Nebraska men will work on playing quieter basketball.
That means far less whistles.
“We’re fouling more than a lot of people — almost everybody,” NU coach Tim Miles said.
In six games, Nebraska has been called for 21 more fouls than opponents. During a 96-90 loss to now-No. 24 Massachusetts, three Huskers fouled out and three others finished with four fouls.
“Usually it’s a position error or a concentration error,” Miles said. “It’s not that we’re just getting beat or aren’t quick enough. It’s more mental than physical.”
His goal is for Nebraska (4-2) to make more free throws than its foes attempt. So far, it’s not close. NU has made 123 while opponents have tried 165.
An emphasis on new defensive rules this season that ban two hands on a ball-handler and no putting an arm horizontally across an offensive player’s back are forcing many players to relearn principles.
“We’ve got to adjust quick because they’re going to call it like they are calling it,” Nebraska forward Shavon Shields said. “When you think about it, we only have a couple of players who have played big minutes in Division I.
“There’s going to be a learning curve. I think we’re getting better in practice every day.”
It’s not just the fouls that bother Miles. How the Huskers react to them — complaining, rolling their eyes, shaking their heads — is bothersome.
Sophomore wing Terran Petteway admitted he’s among those whose body language needs to change. Some of it, he said, cropped up last year while sitting out along with Walter Pitchford and Deverell Biggs.
“Last year, the scout team’s body language was bad. Very bad,” Petteway said. “Coach talked to us about that in the offseason. We’ve gotten better with it, but it’s still not where it needs to be.”
Bad body language, Petteway said, shouts “defeat.”
“I hate seeing that on film,” he said. “That gets under my skin a little bit. The team last year wouldn’t do that because they had way more experience.”
Who polices the team on body language?
“At first, it was just the coaches,” said Petteway, a captain along with Shields and Ray Gallegos. “Now, me and Shavon and Ray are going to have to step up. We’ve got to start policing that right now.”
That starts Saturday against Northern Illinois (2-3), which has played all its games at home. One of the losses was 68-66 to the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
NIU has four starters back from last season’s 5-25 team. Coach Mark Montgomery, a former Michigan State player and 10-year assistant coach, is 12-54 in his three seasons with the Huskies.