Nebraska Basketball: What went right, what went wrong against Omaha

C.J. Wilcher #0 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers walks down court (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
C.J. Wilcher #0 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers walks down court (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

The Nebraska basketball team is 2-0 for the first time in the Fred Hoiberg era. Let that sink in for a minute. In Hoiberg’s fourth season in Lincoln, his team finally won their first two games.

Perhaps that shouldn’t be all that surprising, considering that his high water mark for wins in a season is 10 but it’s still jarring. It’s not like the Cornhuskers were scheduling powerhouse opponents in their first handful of games each season. Hoiberg’s squads have losses to UC Riverside, Southern Utah, Nevada and Western Illinois in their first two games over the last few years.

That’s why it makes sense that opening up with two double-digit wins is seen as real progress, even if considering the quality of the two teams they’ve beaten by double digits is not high. As the old saying goes, a win, is a win, is a win. And so far, the Huskers are undefeated and will have a full week to get ready for their first real test of the 2022-23 season against a St. John’s team that won 17 games a year ago.

What went right for Nebraska basketball

Coming into the game against Omaha, one of the big questions facing the Huskers was whether or not the team could find a second scoring option after Sam Griesel. Last week, the second option was Keisei Tominaga, but his struggles with the Huskers last year and the fact that he’ll be coming off the bench more often than not indicated he wasn’t someone who could be leaned on. The fact that he didn’t score a point against the Mavericks underlined that.

However, CJ Wilcher’s performance, where he scored 21 points thanks in large part to hitting 4-of-7 three-point shots is the kind of performance Nebraska basketball fans have been hoping for from him since he set foot on campus. He actually led all scorers on Thursday night, with three more points than Griesel’s 18.

As far as the top option for a scorer, at least for now it appears that Griesel cemented his spot there. He’s now averaging 19.5 points a game.

It will also be interesting to see whether or not Emmanuel Bandoumel can recreate his game against Omaha consistently. He’s going to get the chance. He and Griesel are leading the team in minutes played. He only scored 6 points against Maine thanks to struggling from the field. On Thursday, he was able to score 18 thanks to being a bit more on target, but also by forcing the issues and getting to the free throw line.

What went wrong for Nebraska basketball

One thing that still has to be worrisome for Husker fans is that there are long periods of game where the Cornhuskers don’t seem to be running any kind of offense at all. The approach seems to be to stand around and watch someone drive to the hoop and put up a bat shot, or chuck up an ill-advised 3 pointer.

At one point in the first half, the Huskers looked like they might be romping their way to victory, taking a 17-point lead. They then seemed to lose focus, allowed an 11-0 Omaha run and waited until the game had been cut to 6 before Hoiberg called a timeout. There was also an 11-2 run by the Mavericks in the second half that shaved the Nebraska basketball lead to 7 points.

Even very good teams go on those droughts from time to time, but it’s just how bad the Cornhuskers look when their droughts occur that continues to cause concern. Honestly, it might just be a situation where Hoiberg needs to call a timeout a bit earlier, especially in the first half and course correct a bit sooner.

This is still a team full of guys that didn’t play together last year. If the Nebraska basketball team wants to get out to an unprecedented 3-0 under Hoiberg, he’s going to have to find a way to stop Cornhusker opponents from repeatedly going on those runs.