LINCOLN — If you see Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles perform a rain dance before Monday's game against No. 11 Ohio State, it's with good reason.
The Huskers (8-8, 0-4), on a five-game skid, are beset by drought.
Field-goal dry spells running from 5 to 8 minutes have shriveled up most chances for Nebraska to win lately, as the following indicates:
Ľ Cincinnati: Down 47-44, score one field goal in the next 5:10. Lose 74-59.
Ľ Iowa: Up 22-18, no field goals in the next 6:50. Lose 67-57.
Ľ Ohio State: Down 44-36, one field goal in the next 6:30. Lose 84-53 after also going final 8 minutes without a basket.
Ľ Michigan: Up 26-24, one field goal in the next 6:50. Lose 71-70.
Ľ Purdue: Up 58-55, no field goals in the next 6:00. Lose 70-64.
How has Miles dealt with those slumps? “I just scream,” he joked. At least, we think he was joking.
Finding an offensive rainmaker sounds like the easy fix. But too much individual play, NU guard Terran Petteway said, is what has led to the droughts.
“We've just got to stay with the offense,” said Petteway, averaging a team-high 17.3 points a game.
“It's when we start to do 'hero basketball' a little bit too much that we get in trouble. Those scoring droughts will probably go away once we keep playing team ball.”
Many of the dry spells, Miles noted, have come at the end of halves or the end of games. That makes fatigue a factor, which is why during the recent eight-day stretch between games he has worked two little-used reserves — forward David Rivers and guard Mike Peltz — into the rotation.
Nebraska's offensive struggles aren't a surprise to anyone who has listened to Miles since preseason.
“We don't shoot well from the outside because we don't have a go-to, high-percentage guy in the post,” he said. “We don't have four guys out there shooting 50 percent. So your next alternative is to make a lot of 3s.
“We don't really do that, either. The 3 is good for us. But our problem is we take too many difficult 2-point field goals. We put our head down and jump off one foot and try to hit a floater or a pull-up jumper.”
Petteway and junior guard Deverell Biggs are Nebraska's leading scorers in Big Ten play.
“These guys are all-or-nothing guys,” Miles said. “They are going to make a play or make a mistake. That's what you love about them. But we also have to understand the 'when, here and now.' ”
Ohio State (15-3, 2-3) has its own issues after following a 15-0 start with losses at Michigan State, to Iowa and at Minnesota.
OSU forward LaQuinton Ross said coach Thad Matta hammered that point home after the Minnesota setback.
“He just told us, 'Right now, we're at rock bottom,' ” Ross said. “We can't get no lower than this.”
The Buckeyes have gone cold in the past three games, shooting 41.4 percent, 44.6 percent and 35.3 percent, respectively, to drop their season rate to 46.2 percent. Also, All-Big Ten point guard Aaron Craft has almost as many turnovers (15) as assists (16) in that stretch.
“Nebraska's not going to feel bad for us,” Craft said. “So we have to do some soul-searching.”