LINCOLN — One year of basketball at the University of Florida wasn't enough for Walter Pitchford to embrace that school's rivalry with Miami.
But there are other reasons for the sophomore transfer to get charged up Wednesday night playing for Nebraska (5-2) against the Hurricanes (5-3).
First, the game is part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on ESPNU.
“Every game, you've got to go out and be motivated,” Pitchford said. “Even if there is a little crowd, you have to go out with high intensity. But it's always fun to play on ESPN. Hopefully there are more of those.”
Another reason to play hard is to wipe away the residue from Saturday's lackluster 63-58 home win over Northern Illinois.
“It's always good to get the 'W,' ” he said. “At the same time, we were learning from our mistakes right after that game.”
Wednesday night, look for the spotlight to find Pitchford.
Against a Miami lineup in which the shortest starter is 6-foot-6, the 6-10 forward will key the Huskers' interior defense, which struggled as NU gave up 96 points to Massachusetts and 87 to UAB.
“We're getting better,” Pitchford said. “The coaches are making sure we're getting after it and correcting things.”
Miami, the defending ACC champion, has no returning starters from its 29-7 Sweet 16 team. There are eight scholarship newcomers. Nebraska has seven.
The Hurricanes opened the season with an overtime loss to St. Francis of Brooklyn and an overtime win over Georgia Southern. But they are coming off a 2-1 showing in the Wooden Legacy with wins over Arizona State and Cal-State Fullerton.
“They've struggled scoring a little bit, but they've fine-tuned what they are doing,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. “They have more of an identity and are going inside a lot more.”
And the Huskers?
“We're weak inside,” Miles said. “We're at least one big guy short. We knew this going in. It just depends on how you solve the problem.”
That brings us back to Pitchford, who despite his height has played more on the perimeter in his career than inside.
“Walt is trying,” Miles said. “It's not a mindset for him. We're playing him out of position, but we need him to take one for the team.”
Pitchford hasn't squawked.
“If it's helping the team, I'm going to do it,” he said. “Me playing the 5 creates mismatches. I'm working on being more physical. I'm starting to get more rebounds and making sure I'm an overall guy, not just one-dimensional.”
Pitchford and 6-8 Leslee Smith could play more together, Miles said, as he plans to juggle lineup combinations for a better blend of offense and defense.