New points of emphasis were the college basketball story du jour at the start of the season, and unfortunately for Nebraska, fouls continue to plague the Huskers at the start of Big Ten play.
In two Big Ten games – both double-digit losses to Iowa and Ohio State – Nebraska committed 51 personal fouls. That has resulted in a wide disparity of free throw attempts. Iowa and Ohio State combined to attempt 68 free throws to Nebraska's 30 attempts.
Head coach Tim Miles has employed a variety of methods to get his team to play better defense. Assistant coaches have officiated practices, and when players foul, they have to run on a courtside treadmill for a minute before returning to drills.
“We rep practice and every time somebody fouled, they went on the treadmill at 12 miles per hour for a minute,” Miles said. “Eventually you'll by in the best shape of your life or you'll stop fouling.”
Prior to the start of the season, the NCAA refs began emphasizing certain calls to eliminate hand checking and other defensive contact that was slowing down offensive players. Miles said he has seen those calls balance out as the season has progressed, and said his team just plays undisciplined at times.
“I think our guys know where they're at,” Miles said. “There are still a few calls here and there you kind of scratch your head about. I tell the guys all the time, 'let's count the refs mistakes and let's count ours. And see who wins.' The refs are always going to win. They make fewer mistakes. There's only three of them and five of us, but that's no matter here or there.”
Nebraska's first two Big Ten games have come in tough environments at Iowa and Ohio State. Many of Nebraska's players are making their first treks through Big Ten play, and Miles said he has been disappointed with the way his team availed itself in those games.
The Huskers return home Thursday night to take on Michigan, another athletic team that will test the Huskers' resolve. Miles said his team was disappointed with the offensive drought that closed the Ohio State game, and is looking for a better effort against a Michigan team that plays in a similar style to that of Creighton.
“It looked like we had the signs of defeat all over us and you can't let yourself get that way,” Miles said of his team's effort against Ohio State. “We have a lot of work to do. Defensively, we went on the road, we saw the lack of discipline that we talked about all year.”
Junior forward Leslee Smith said Big Ten officials are letting a little more contact go in the paint during conference play, but that Nebraska needs to do a better job on the defensive end. The Huskers enter Thursday's game ninth in the Big Ten, giving up an average of 75.5 points per game.
“We need to get a lot better on defense,” Smith said. “We need to get a lot more disciplined.”