What do ya know? The Iowa Hawkeyes (11-11, 2-7) are on a one-game winning streak! In the lead-up to their bout against the resurgent Nebraska Cornhuskers (15-8, 6-4), we had some questions for Corn Nation’s Mitch Lohmeier.
1) It’s been a impressive turnaround for Tim Miles and the Cornhuskers after last year’s 6-12 conference record. Beyond the infusion of James Palmer and Isaac Copeland, what has stuck out in the difference between the two seasons?
I think what sticks out this year is just the overall talent the Huskers possess compared to last year. Last year Nebraska started Evan Taylor and Jack McVeigh for the majority of their games, this year Taylor has moved to a sixth man role (just recently however), but McVeigh doesn’t even play anymore.
When Michael Jacobson, Ed Morrow, and Jeriah Horne transferred from Nebraska, some thought the Huskers would become significantly worse. However, that is not the case at all. Jacobson was replaced by a much better Copeland, while Morrow was replaced by the sophomore standout Isaiah Roby. Horne was known as the Husker’s “3PT specialist” last year, even though he shot just around 36%. This year the Huskers have two players shooting over 40% from three, Anton Gill and Taylor. Copeland, Palmer, Glynn Watson, and freshman newcomer Thomas Allen can also shoot the three ball.
2) Despite having fairly mediocre offensive team stats, the aformentioned Palmer and Copeland are putting up strong number offensively. What do these guys bring to the table that their offense were lacking last year?
Last year the Huskers offense revolved around their two guards, Tai Webster and Watson. The Huskers actually started out 3-0 in Big Ten play mainly because of the offense those two produced, but teams started to figure out Nebraska’s offensive scheme.
Now, with Palmer and Copeland, the Huskers have three consistent scorers, while having Roby and Gill to score as well. Palmer presents a very tough matchup for opponents, for he can dribble like a guard, shoot from anywhere on the court, and drive like a forward. Palmer is basically Webster from last year except taller and a better shooter.
Copeland brings a tall forward that can score and rebound, something the Huskers have been waiting for since Walter Pitchford from their NCAA tournament run. With a big guy like Copeland, as well as Roby, the Huskers can finally score in the paint without having their guards drive to score. While guards driving can be a good thing, Copeland’s presence also opens up the three point shot for the Huskers.
3) Much of Nebraska’s improvement is attributable to their defense, specifically at the perimeter. What have they done this year to limit both opponent attempts from three as well as improve from allowing 40.7% to 30.4% from distance?
Coach Miles has done a great job of recruiting and getting transfers to come to Nebraska, and its finally all come together. With the presence of Copeland and Roby, the Huskers are much more athletic on defense, something Miles has always wanted in his lineup.
Copeland and Roby are big enough to play down low, but are also quick and agile enough to guard the perimeter. Last year when they had to play Jordy Tshimanga and Morrow in the same lineup, teams could drive and kick out to wide open shooters on the perimeter.
Miles also said after Gill got hurt last year that he was one of their better perimeter defenders, so with Gill finally healthy he adds a boost as well.
4) For as good as the Cornhuskers are on the perimeter, they are absolutely lacking inside and allow over 13 offensive rebounds a game (35.0%). How does Nebraska mitigate their apparent lack of inside presence?
Just stay out of foul trouble. Too many times have Roby and Tshimanga been called for fouls that they didn’t need to commit, whether that is reaching too much or jumping on pump fakes.
Another reason for the offensive rebounding struggles could be is the Huskers perimeter defense has been so good so far, that long rebounds will tend to happen. So while teams are missing three point shots, they might be grabbing long rebounds that bounce back to the corner or top of the key.
5) Lastly, who ya got?
While Iowa has shown promise at times this season, like a 20 point victory over Wisconsin the other day, I think Nebraska’s home court advantage will be too much to handle for the Hawkeyes. Huskers keep it close for awhile, but pull away in the second half to win 75-66.
Thanks Mitch. We hope your team loses by a million. You can pester him on the Twitter about the game (or why Nebraska is only a women’s volleyball school) if you’re feeling like it at @mitch_lohmeier or the above @CornNation.