LINCOLN — When Nebraska faces Creighton, does it let Bluejay All-American Doug McDermott get his 25 points and try to stop the rest, or do the Huskers clamp down on the nation's No. 4 scorer and force the others to score?
“So you want the whole game plan?” NU coach Tim Miles asked.
If you're offering, yes.
Miles didn't, but acknowledged that he doesn't foresee defending McDermott straight up without help for 40 minutes.
“It takes a village to stop Creighton,” Miles said. “Once you concentrate on stopping Doug, then Ethan Wragge is going to make six 3s.
“Then about the time you forget about him, the Brooks kid (Devin) goes crazy like he did against St. Joseph. They have a lot of weapons.”
Nebraska's best defense, Miles said, might be to force those weapons to load more slowly.
“The bigger-picture thing is keeping them out of transition,” he said. “That's my greatest concern. When they get transition and start their stuff early, they are really, really tough. Anybody, when you get them set and in the half court, the defense has the advantage.”
Nebraska played two high-tempo games in the Charleston Classic and lost both: 96-90 to now-No. 21 Massachusetts; and 87-74 to UAB, which has defeated North Carolina.
Since then, the Huskers (6-2) have won three straight, holding Georgia to 65 points, Northern Illinois to 58 and Miami to 49.
The recently improved defensive performances are no accident, Husker wing Terran Petteway said, citing the Miami game specifically.
“We guarded the ball way better,” he said. “In watching film, you could tell we really took pride in guarding their players and knowing their personnel really well. Our defensive tempo was way better.”
Interior defense had been a specific concern. NU held Miami's four-man inside rotation to two baskets.
But Miami didn't have anyone inside close to the skill of Creighton's McDermott, so the emphasis on guarding the paint remains.
“It's got to be 10 times better against McDermott,” Petteway said. “What's he averaging, like 25? If we give him a little bit of space, he's going to knock it down. So we've got to stay solid on defense and don't gamble as much.”
Though CU is just 60 miles up the road, this will be NU's first true road game and among the two or three largest crowds it will see this season.
“I think it will be fun to see where we're at,” Petteway said. “We've got 15,000 people against us, but we'll be all right.”
Walter Pitchford, Forward, 6-10, So., 9.0, 4.4: Tallest Husker regular, but more comfortable offensively on the perimeter. Leads NU in 3-point shooting (46.4 percent).
Shavon Shields, Forward, 6-7, So., 12.0, 5.4: Scored 28 points in season-opening win over Florida Gulf Coast, but past five games has shot 30.9 percent.
Terran Petteway, Guard, 6-6, So., 15.8, 4.9: Scored a career-high 30 points against now-No. 21 Massachusetts, and has been in double figures in all but one game.
Ray Gallegos, Guard, 6-2, Sr., 8.0, 1.3: One of only two Huskers to have faced Creighton in Omaha. Hit three big 3-pointers Wednesday in win over Miami.
Tai Webster, Guard, 6-4, Fr., 8.5, 2.4: Inconsistent but talented playmaker. Has had single-game totals of 14 points, 11 free-throw attempts, five assists, four steals and four rebounds.
Bench: Forward Leslee Smith and guard Deverell Biggs have been spark plugs. Smith has averaged eight rebounds past five games. Biggs has had 17- and 18-point games.
Nebraska will win if ...
The Huskers use their athleticism and length to control tempo, stop Creighton’s transition game and make Doug McDermott uncomfortable.