When you look at Nebraska's point total in Saturday's 60-38 loss at Oregon, it would appear from the outside that the Huskers suffered a complete offensive collapse in all phases against the Ducks.
While there weren't many excuses for the 30-percent shooting performance and the program's fourth-lowest scoring output since 1947, NU was still in position get some open looks and get its offense in gear.
The Huskers got numerous wide-open looks at jumpers and even lay-ups, and for whatever reason couldn't find a way to put the ball through the rim. That, head coach Tim Miles said on Monday, was the most frustrating aspect of all.
"We're challenged offensively," Miles said. "Going into the year we talked about it. But we missed a lot of open looks. I'm not despondent about what we're running. We have to improve a lot. Forty points a game isn't going to beat anybody. You are what you are. You can say we're better than that - we're not. That's the way we're performing, so we've got to get better in a hurry."
Looking over the box score from the Oregon loss, which was the second game in a row NU failed to score more than 42 points, there really wasn't a player who didn't struggle with his shooting.
Senior guard Dylan Talley was the only Husker to reach double-figures with 11 points, but did it on 5-of-13 shooting from the field (38 percent). Senior guard Ray Gallegos, who had been red hot shooting the ball just a couple weeks earlier, followed up Talley with nine points but was a dismal 1-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.
Then there were Nebraska's big men, seniors Brandon Ubel and Andre Almeida. They combined for five points and just one basket from the field on 1-of-9 shooting. Many of those misses came within three feet of the basket.
"We got easy looks," Ubel said. "I mean, the biggest problem was we were missing those easy shots, myself included. Dylan probably missed three lay-ups. I missed two or three lay-ups. You look at that, that's 12 points and we're right in the game. We've got to get that fixed and just make easy plays. When that happens then we're able to draw more guys off of shooters and hit open shots. But that's basically what it comes down to, just making open, easy shots."
Miles he tried to add a few new wrinkles to the offense during Monday's practice to help give his team even more easy looks at shots moving forward, but said it would have to come down to the Huskers simply making shots more so than any schematic changes.
Ubel agreed, saying fixing Nebraska's shooting problems was both a matter of putting in the work in during practice and also just regaining the confidence to score.
"I think it's a little bit of both," Ubel said. "I think we've done a lot better job in practice focusing. Sometimes we'll have kind of an easier look and take it for granted, and we kind of saw that on the film a little bit. We were able to realize that we can't take any plays off or anything for granted."
With just four more games left in the non-conference schedule before the start of Big Ten play, Miles knows time is running out to regain some of the early-season momentum heading his team had going into the league slate.
Starting with Tuesday night's home game against Jacksonville State, Miles said he just hopes to see steady improvement from the Huskers each time they take the court. In dealing with a problem as mental as NU's shooting woes, that's about all you can do.
"I'm confident in our guys," Miles said. "I really think that we're going to play better. We're getting better, and their enthusiasm is good, and we're not going to go out there and just yuck it up every day. We're going to be OK."
Around the rim
***Miles said sophomore guard David Rivers, who injured his ankle in the first half against Oregon and did not return the rest of the game, practice on Monday but was still questionable for Tuesday's game.
Of course, Miles couldn't give the injury update without adding a little sarcasm.
"He averages about 4 points per game," Miles said of Rivers. "That's 10 percent of our offense. We've got to have him."
***Miles also said freshman point guard Benny Parker, who played Saturday despite spraining his MCL earlier last week, was definitely hampered in the game. Parker had just two points, two rebounds, two assists and two turnovers in 27 minutes of action against the Ducks.
"He's still slower," Miles said. "Actually, he was playing alright, and then his two worst performances have come since injury. Not only was it the foot for a while or the ankle, now it's his knee too, and you can tell he's just not the same guy. He's struggling along, but he's a competitor and he's going to get through it."
***For the first time in a very long time, Miles opted to play zone defense against Oregon just to give the Ducks a different look to start the second half. It ended up working so well that NU used it until the final minutes of the second half.
"I gave the Oregon coaches a one-man standing O when they made their first 3, which was 17 minutes after we started playing zone," Miles said. "I was like, 'Until they start making 3s I'm not getting out of it.' It was just kind of more of a curiosity adventure for me."
***Almeida was held scoreless against Oregon and took just three shots, as he got into early foul trouble and was never much of a factor. Miles took a good part of the blame Almeida's struggles.
"I think I put Andre in a bad position," Miles said. "We put him in the alley, which is kind of out of the mix, and now that means that all of his looks are going to come from the movement and the play-making of the other guys. We did that for awhile, and then Creighton and Oregon we kind of quit doing it. So now Dre's kind of out there on an island, kind of buried on the baseline. So we're going to try to get him in the action a little more and try and get him more looks."
***While Jacksonville State might not be much of a name for the casual fan, Miles said it was still an 8-2 opponent coming into the Devaney Center, and with the way the Huskers' had played the past two outings, they couldn't afford to take anyone for granted.
"If another opponent puts five guys out there I'm a little worried," Miles said. "I worry about everybody, and Jacksonville's the next one, so I worry a great deal about what they bring to the table."