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December 10, 2012

NU regrouping, moving on from disappointing loss

In typical fashion, Nebraska head coach Tim Miles turned to a late-1970's sketch comedy reference to describe the way the Huskers performed in their loss to instate rival Creighton last week.

"I told one of my coaches that we were like the cast of Saturday Night Live in the old days, kind of The Not Ready For Prime Time Players," Miles said during his interview on the season's first weekly Big Ten coaches' teleconference on Monday.

"We had a sold-out arena, had a nationally-ranked opponent, and we didn't compete very well. So that was really disappointing. I'd hoped we'd be in better position, but we live to fight another day."

It certainly was a frustrating night for Nebraska, who fell behind to the Bluejays early on and never recovered in an eventual 22-point loss. Now, like it or not, the Huskers are left with a nine-day break before they return action at Oregon on Saturday.

While Miles said his players would obviously like to get back on the court and put the Creighton loss behind them, he said the team has used the time off to both rest up physically and devote much of its attention toward academics during finals week.

The Huskers took the entire weekend off from practice and will get back to work Monday and Tuesday to try and correct the mistakes that plagued them against the Bluejays. They'll then take Wednesday off and come back Thursday and Friday to prepare for the Ducks.

"With finals week you're a little bit handcuffed with some of that," Miles said. "When you look at the schedule, you're going to cram games in there somewhere, but we decided this was a good time going into finals to take a bit of a break."

When Nebraska does finally return to action, it will of course have to deal with another Creighton connection in Oregon head coach Dana Altman, who coached the Bluejays for 16 seasons before taking over UO in 2010.

Altman's squad currently boasts an 8-1 record this season with wins over Vanderbilt and No. 18 UNLV, and its one loss coming to No. 22 Cincinnati. The Ducks rank 25th nationally in points per game (79.4) and 29th in field goal percentage (48.1), and are coming off an 87-35 dismantling of Idaho State on Saturday.

"They're going to be well-coached," Miles said. "Systematically, they're going to press us some, change defenses. We're going to have our hands full, because they're a high-scoring offensive team. They've got a lot of things going for them that way."

On Nebraska's end, as disappointing as the Creighton loss was, it's still 6-2 on the season with Oregon being the last high-major foe on the schedule before the start of Big Ten play. In a year pegged by many to be a throwaway season of transition, Miles said he's gotten everything he could have hoped for from his players thus far.

"I'm proud of our guys," Miles said. "I just try and look at improvement. I try to not get caught up in the record, because we may have won some games we didn't deserve to win. So I just look at where we were when we started and where we are now. Although I don't think Creighton was our best effort, I think our kids have come a long way in a short time, just communicating, competing, picking up what we're trying to do. That's encouraging, but we still have a long way to go to be a good team."


Around the rim

***Miles said freshman Shavon Shields (elbow) didn't suffer any setbacks after playing in just his second game of the season on Thursday.

"He's all good," Miles said. "He would have been ready to practice Friday morning if we needed to practice him."

***Coming into the week, the Big Ten has six teams ranked in the top-25 polls. With the start of conference play less than a month away, Miles said he's already starting to prepare himself for what lies ahead for Nebraska.

"I'm afraid (Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany) is going to have all top-25 teams in the polls through the Big Ten, because that's what it feels like, doesn't it?" Miles said. "It's an amazing deal. I mean, the league is so good and so tough, and you try to not get overwhelmed.

"It's like, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So we're just going to take each opponent on their own, see if we can put ourselves in position to win, and hopefully we can pull that off and do it again, and again, and again."

***Miles praised the play of senior forward Brandon Ubel so far, especially the way Ubel has established himself as a vocal leader on the team.

"Brandon's a dream come true to coach," Miles said. "He's a great kid, model citizen and a heck of a player too. As I eluded to earlier with the improvement from the beginning to now, Brandon's right in the middle of all that. I remember we were in a timeout earlier in the season, and I was talking and then quit talking and just put my head down to listen, and nobody was saying a word. Nobody. And I looked up and I said 'Guys, if I've got to be the only one who comes up with good ideas, we're in a lot of trouble this year. I need you guys talking with each other.'

"Now, we come to timeouts and I've got to compete with Brandon to talk, and I think that's a great thing. I want him in control. I want him taking charge. We have to have those strong voices, and Brandon is at the top of the list."

***Miles said he only knows Altman from a few brief meetings at events over the years, but is very familiar for Oregon assistant Kevin McKenna. Miles and McKenna faced off several times when Miles was at North Dakota State and McKenna was head coach at Nebraska-Omaha and also when Miles was at Colorado State and McKenna was at Indiana State.


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