Nebraska’s Loss to Rhode Island Exhibits Some Danger Signs

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 24th, 2014

It’s not as though Nebraska was going to waltz through the season undefeated or anything. The Cornhuskers cracked the preseason Top 25 because of the finishing run they went on last season and because they brought back pretty much every significant player in the rotation other than Ray Gallegos. That said, Saturday’s overtime loss to an unranked Rhode Island team exhibited several potential trouble spots for the Cornhuskers if they don’t immediately fix some things. We outline three of those problem areas below.

Walter Pitchford is off to a slow start this season for Nebraska. (AP)

Walter Pitchford is off to a slow start this season for Nebraska. (AP)

  • Walter Pitchford is Struggling: The former Florida forward emerged as a quality deep shooting big man last season, hitting 41.0 percent on nearly 50 makes from three. He’s off to a 1-of-11 start from behind the arc this season. One of the most difficult things to do if you’re a good shooter whose shots are not falling is to find other ways to contribute. It’s clear that he’s struggling in other facets of his game, but Pitchford could work through his slump by becoming a better presence on the boards and staying out of foul trouble. Right now the offense is pretty much limited to the Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields show, but last year’s team really took off when the secondary options improved. Rhode Island outrebounded Nebraska by 16, and Pitchford’s lack of activity inside is a big part of the reason why.
  • The Point Guard Situation: Things are kind of a mess offensively right now, but finding a single point guard to emerge and separate himself from the pack would go a long way toward offensive stability with this team. Right now, Tai Webster, Benny Parker, and freshman Tarin Smith are all getting decent minutes, but none have really shown Miles that he can trust them with the offense. Webster and Parker are solid on-ball defenders who create turnovers, but neither has distinguished himself offensively (combined 39.4% FG, 10 assists/11 turnovers). The offense features way too much one-on-one play right now, and Petteway is taking way too many inefficient shots (40 percent of team attempts). Smith has been solid in his limited minutes so far, so look for him to get more time as things progress.
  • Rebounding is an Issue: As the ringleader of the “Leslee Smith is underrated” bandwagon, my case is being made by the team’s clear inability to grab rebounds without him in the lineup. Nebraska is currently rated 319th nationally in offensive rebounding and 212th in defensive rebounding; Smith was second in the B1G last year in offensive rebounding percentage, and seventh in defensive rebounding. The math is clear that the team misses his presence. Moses Abraham did a nice job on the glass against Rhode Island Saturday, but he didn’t have much help. If Pitchford continues to struggle offensively, look for Abraham to get more minutes as the team’s only reliable rebounder other than Shields.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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