Tipoff: Nebraska at Indiana, 7 p.m. tonight
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BLOOMINGTON -- Yes, Nebraska coach Tim Miles really did channel Stephen King when talking about Indiana basketball.
How can you not like this guy?
Miles was asked about the challenge of stopping the nation's No. 1 team in Assembly Hall, which is what his Cornhuskers (12-12 overall, 3-8 in the Big Ten) will have to do tonight, and his answer included a reference to the actress who played in the movie “The Shining,” which was based on a novel by King.
“How do you slow these guys down?” Miles said in response to a question. “That's like trying to figure out which whack job is going to take out (actress) Shelley Duvall in 'The Shining.' It's one thing after another and they're all nightmarish.”
Nightmares are easy to see given Indiana's huge edge in talent and experience.
“They've got great athleticism, they shoot the three well, they have great interior play,” Miles said. “Victor Oladipo is a potential player of the year. Look at all the weapons they have. It's an amazing team.”
Miles, in his first year at Nebraska after a successful five-year run at Colorado State, has borrowed a page from Tom Crean's coaching manual. Rather than establish one style and use it every game, he adjusts to maximize his team's victory chances. That means mixing zone and man-to-man defenses, and changing the way the Cornhuskers run their offense.
Crean did the same thing his first year at IU, when lack of talent prevented him from playing the up-tempo style he prefers.
“Every approach is a little different for every game,” Miles said. “We want to play to the strengths of our team. We want to give our guys a chance to win.
“You can't let Indiana play racehorse basketball. We'll have to do a good job of making them one-dimensional, whatever that might be. We have to play great defense, great conversion defense. We've got to be able to handle their pressure defense. Their defense is better than it's given credit for.”
Nebraska is good about slowing down games. It holds opponents to 61.8 points. IU leads the Big Ten in scoring, at 83.1 points.
“We have to establish pace and tempo,” Crean said, “no matter what they determine they want to do. We want to push the pace without rushing and turning it over.”
Crean knows all about Miles. He coached against him when Crean was at Marquette and Miles was at North Dakota State.
North Dakota State won.
“Our guys didn't grasp how tough that team was,” Crean said.
The Hoosiers (21-3 overall, 9-2 in the Big Ten) won't have that problem. Nebraska upset IU last year with a big rally down the stretch.
“The result is still we didn't take care of business there,” Crean said. “We allowed them to get momentum back.”
Crean has mentioned that to his players. He'll likely mention it again before tipoff.
“Last year definitely left a bad taste in our mouths,” guard Jordan Hulls said, “but it's a new year, a new team. We don't want to repeat that. We have a game plan. We just have to do a good job of executing it.”
Nebraska's game plan won't dazzle. It's led by guards Ray Gallegos (13.3 points) and Dylan Talley (13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds), and forward Brandon Ubel (11.9 points, 6.9 rebounds).
“We're not always pretty to watch,” Miles said. “We don't have a great deal of offensive firepower. We've been solid defensively. We hang around the boards a little bit.
“In this league, you have to have everything. You have to have a great perimeter, strong wings, physical big guys who can guard. If you don't have everything in place, it can be really tough. Until we get everything in place from a recruiting standpoint, it's a crapshoot every night on whether or not we'll be successful.”