The Nebraska basketball team is going to have to find a way to stop some concerningly sloppy play on both sides of the court, but on Saturday, it found a way to overcome that slop to forge a win at home against the Northwestern Wildcats, 75-69.
The win snaps a two-game losing streak and a period where the Huskers had lost three of four. The weirdest part of that stretch was that the only win in their last four games coming into today was a blowout victory over then-top-ranked Purdue.
The losses were all bad for different reasons. Wisconsin came before the Boilermakers and featured some pretty poor defense. But at least the Nebraska basketball team could say it ran into a Badgers squad that has been a buzzsaw this season. The loss to Iowa was not excusable. It was a poor performance that lacked anything resembling defense.
The loss to Rutgers was a game where the Huskers led by 12 in each half, and then went long stretches to finish both halves with no field goals. The Scarlet Knights also had 25 offensive rebounds.
Plenty stood out in the game win against Northwestern, including the fact this could very easily have been a loss.
Nebraska basketball has to clean things up
There has been a common denominator in the Huskers last three games, even if the problems have been different every time out. Hoiberg's Heroes are simply playing very sloppy basketball.
Against Iowa, Nebraska allowed the Hawkeyes to shoot 52 percent from the field, 42 percent from 3-point land on 35 attempts and have 30 assists. That last one is the most painful. It was a seaon high for assists by a team against Nebraska basketball by a wide margin.
Against Rutgers it was the long scoreless streaks, but the 25 offensive rebounds by the Scarlet Knights, in a game that went to OT was the killer. And on Saturday, it was 18 turnovers. Northwestern had just 7.
After Rutgers, Hoiberg made it clear that the sky isn't falling and that his players just need to ignore the "noise" from outside the program. But he might need to get louder concerning what he considers competent offense and defense.
Rienk Mast needs more rest
There's very little doubt that the Nebraska basketball team would not be contending for an NCAA Tournament bid if they didn't have Rienk Mast. That's exactyl why it's time to start finding a way to get him off the court a bit more. He looks exhausted.
Coming off what was arguably his worst game of the season against Rutgers, he struggled at times against Nortwestern as well. Mast hit just 4-of-11 shots, with several misses point blank, and turned it over five times. In other words his turnovers were almost a third of the team's.
On the other hand, he had 5 assists and 8 rebounds. He's very much going to be key to Nebraska basketball's success down the stretch. Blaise Kaeta didn't play today but he was available. His return could be huge. However they do it, Hoiberg has to find a way to give Rienk some rest.
Mast has played 30 minutes or more in 8 of the last 9 games. It would be nice to see his minutes drop to 25 or so every now and then. Obviously, until Kaeta is ready and Gary is back, that might not happen. But Mast looks like he's fatiguing.