For the first four games of the Tim Miles era, the Huskers had come out with strong defensive intensity that allowed them to overcome their lack of scoring punch on offense.
But that wasn't the case Saturday night as Kent State shot 57.1 percent from the field to knock off the Huskers 74-60 and hand Miles his first loss at NU's helm.
"At this point I've got a lot of concerns," Miles said. "I question our mental readiness and I have to put that on me. I actually thought we had practiced alright. I thought we'd be ready to go."
The Huskers started sluggishly but were able to hang with the Golden Flashes for much of the first half. Dylan Talley scored six points in the last two minutes of the first half to fuel a 7-2 NU run that gave Nebraska its first lead since the game's opening minutes.
But Kent State's Kellon Thomas hit a 3-pointer 40 seconds into the second half and the Huskers wouldn't lead again. Nebraska committed three turnovers on its first five possessions in the second half as the Golden Flashes scored nine of the first 11 points after intermission.
"I felt we didn't come out with the spark we should have in the first half," Talley said. "Then we played well, but we didn't come out with a spark again in the second half. It wasn't how it should have been, it wasn't how it usually is and it's not how we practice it. That's on the players and me as a senior. We've got to do better than that. There's no excuse for us to come like that."
Kent State continued to stretch the lead as NU's offense sputtered. The Huskers shot just 33.3 percent in the second half and made one 3-pointer. Nebraska scored nine points in the game's final 8:26.
Talley provided a spark for NU offensively, scoring a career-high 27 points and Brandon Ubel added 17 points and 13 rebounds. But the rest of the team shot four for 21 and David Rivers' six points were the only scoring that came from NU's bench. Miles said the Huskers' offensive struggles spilled over into the team's defensive endeavors.
"We missed some shots and some of our guys let their offensive performance, or lack thereof, affect their defensive effort," he said. "You could see wheels turning a little bit. Then instead of responding with a little more edge or intensity, we go downhill."
Nebraska also allowed some of the Golden Flashes' unknown players burn them. Darren Goodson came into the game averaging three points and was benched in Kent State's last contest, but scored 16 points on eight of 10 shooting. Chris Ortiz, who had hit two 3-pointers all season, hit a pair in the first few minutes of the game to help set the game's tone.
Talley was especially discouraged with the team's effort. With Wake Forest, USC, Creighton and Oregon on the horizon, NU's schedule won't be doing it any favors, and the senior knows the effort the Huskers displayed Saturday night is going to cut it.
"I don't know what it is, but we're just going to have to get it together," Talley said. "We've got to come into practice tomorrow and go hard, because the schedule isn't getting any easier. We've got to compete if we want to win. You're not going to win if you don't compete for 40 minutes."
Around the rim
***After making his career debut Wednesday against Tulane, freshman guard Shavon Shields sat out the game with his elbow injury. Miles said the elbow "did not react favorably to activity" and he isn't sure about Shields' long-term prognosis.
***Nebraska's bench was outscored 19-6.
***The Huskers had been shooting 33 percent from 3-point range in their first four games but made just three of 15 3-pointers Saturday night.