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Highlights and Press Conf.

January 19, 2017
Many opportunities slip
away from Huskers
Watson Jr.
             1   2   total 
Ohio State  32  35    67 
NEBRASKA    40  26    66 

Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska's 67-66 heartbreaking loss to Ohio State was all of 10 minutes old Wednesday night when Glynn Watson Jr. took to Twitter to express his personal disappointment, saying he felt he let his team down.

What followed was more than 100 responses of Husker basketball fans expressing their appreciation, support and encouragement for Nebraska's sophomore point guard.

Still, people could understand Watson's frustration had they been in his shoes - which betrayed him in the final 1.9 seconds.

With Nebraska clinging to a one-point lead, and Ohio State inbounding under its basket, the Huskers, who'd just taken a time out, were to switch screens, with the expectation of perhaps Kam Williams or Marc Loving coming off a screen for a short jumper.

The switching went fine. But Watson lost his footing and was on his hand and knees, unable to get in front of Loving, who scored his uncontested, game-winning layup with .6 seconds remaining, stunning a crowd of 13,842 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Photo Courtesy Stephanie Carpenter/Nebraska Communications
Evan Taylor on a break away vs Ohio State.

"I don't care what you run, if you fall down, you're going to give up a layup, and that's what happened," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said. "When we lost our feet, well, we're dead."

As crummy as Watson felt, his apology, of sorts, wasn't at all necessary.

Nebraska (9-9, 3-3 Big Ten Conference) had a laundry list of reasons to blame for its third straight loss.

The Huskers were 11-of-20 on free throws, didn't force a single turnover in the second half after capitalizing on 11 Ohio State turnovers in the first half, lost its pace on offense and simply couldn't keep Loving (15 points), Jae'Sean Tate (13 points) and JaQuan Lyle (13 points) from attacking the rim for high-percentage shots.

"A lot of young mistakes - freshmen, sophomores who were making them," Miles said, "but I guess you learn by putting your hand on the burner, and that's what we did tonight, and we got burnt."

Senior guard Tai Webster scored 18 points, and his strong scoring drive with 34 seconds remaining gave Nebraska a one-point lead. Loving missed a three-pointer from the corner on Ohio State's ensuing possession, but Lyle corralled the Buckeyes' 15th offensive rebound to set up the game-winning sequence.

"I think we had someone fall over, and from there on it was pick your poison, really. They had multiple different ways to get us," Webster said, noting he didn't even know which Husker had slipped.

"I felt they got away with one tonight, but if it was the other way around, I thought we would've got away with one as well."

Nebraska led by as many as 12 points in the first half when it shot 50 percent and had assists on half of its made field goals. That included four transition baskets off turnovers.

"Our pace was good. We were moving the ball around," Webster said. "It was sticking quite as bit as well, but I think once we really moved it and got to scoring buckets out of our defense in transition and stuff like that, that's when we were able to get out and get the lead. We weren't able to come out in the second half and come out with that same pace that we needed to."

Miles was disappointed in the lack of offensive flow in the second half, too, and wasn't able to explain the difference from the first half.

"We just weren't running. We just wouldn't run. I don't know. I can't explain that," Miles said. "They're just tired. They're expending a tremendous amount of energy on defense. I think we're in fairly good shape. I don't think it's that. But at the same time, you have to will yourself for easy opportunities."

Defensively, Nebraska, already shorthanded in the frontcourt because of sophomore forward Ed Morrow's foot injury that's sidelined him indefinitely, overcame foul trouble in the first half. Michael Jacobson and Jordy Tshimanga each had two early fouls - Tshimanga had three before halftime. Yet the Huskers, thanks to strong minutes off the bench from Nick Fuller, survived, and then some. Ohio State shot just 37 percent in the first half.

In the second half, the Buckeyes attacked the rim, at times with too much ease.

"We just botched some defensive assignments," Miles said. "We had two guys out there that just let (Loving) get to his left I think three different times. When your center has to over-help to get to the rim, you can't get in in front of Trevor Thompson. He's 7-foot, athletic, and he made us pay with second shots. But that wasn't the center's fault as much as it was the guy getting beat by Tate and Lyle right down to their strong hand."

A couple of possessions of 1-3-1 zone defense, a change-up that's sparked Nebraska in some games, most notably at Maryland, also yielded two baskets in the paint.

Undoubtedly, a second straight game without Morrow, who was averaging 10 points and eight rebounds before injury, played a significant factor in a game against one of the Big Ten's bigger, longer lineups.

"Ed's got a great presence out there on the floor," Jacobson said. "He does a really good job of being tough and grabbing rebounds and he scores. He does a lot of things with his energy to affect the game."

Yet as Miles said, his team must adjust, because teams like Rutgers, which hosts Nebraska on Saturday in search of its first Big Ten win, aren't about to feel sorry for the Huskers.

And Nebraska, which fell to 5-2 in games decided by five points or fewer this season, will find itself in more tight games, with more opportunities to stay in the thick of the ever-so-tight Big Ten race.

"It's an utterly disappointing loss, but I think it was more than just one play, more than just one guy falling down," Miles said. "I'm proud of the guys to keep battling back and retake the lead even when things weren't going well. There were all kinds of reasons to fall apart, and they wouldn't.

"Although we didn't win, I think there's going to be some things you draw from this that you say, 'You know what, we have won games like this.' It just wasn't tonight. We have to keep on firing, because it's going to be like this all the time."

Source: University of Nebraska Athletic Dept.