LINCOLN — The biggest ovation from Thursday night’s Nebraska basketball open house at Pinnacle Bank Arena came in response to coach Tim Miles grabbing the microphone and saying the following:
“We’re going to try to push the ball and be more up-tempo than we have been.”
To show that wasn’t just talk, one of the longest drills during the 75-minute workout ahead of a 20-minute scrimmage was a 5-on-5, full-court, stop-for-nothing game session in which only 12 seconds were put on the shot clock.
Also, the 38-36 score in the one half of a simulated game offered the crowd of about 1,000 a look at the Huskers’ quicker pace and better depth of talent.
Six players scored at least six points, with junior guard James Palmer firing in 17 and senior guard Evan Taylor 10. It was Taylor’s spinning move in the lane with 4.7 seconds left that decided the scrimmage.
Nebraska already had shown its scoring chops in two exhibition games, beating Mississippi State 76-72 on the road and Iowa State 92-84 in a closed scrimmage.
But Thursday’s event on home turf was equally important to Miles.
“That’s a different set of nerves for some of these guys,” he said. “The guys coming off medical things, and the freshmen to be out there for the first time, it’s important for those guys.”
A bonus with the open house, Miles said, was to combine it with a Husker booster event that allowed new Athletic Director Bill Moos to attend.
One of Nebraska’s newcomers, center Duby Okeke, was glad to play at PBA with the lights on and fans in the stands.
The graduate transfer, who came from Winthrop, played in a 6,100-seat building there. He didn’t get a full look at PBA in recruiting because the season was over when he visited, and the arena was hosting a monster truck show.
“It’s amazing,” said Okeke, who blocked three shots and threw down a dunk in the first few minutes of the scrimmage. “It’s better than Winthrop. Winthrop, I love it. It was the best experience.
“But here? This is another level. This is the Big Ten. It’s crazy. I’m used to being on the other side when we would go to play big schools. Now that I’m part of it, it’s different for me. I’m just trying to learn.”
During the Red-White scrimmage, players switched teams and substituting was frequent.
“My job is to blend the best lineup for as long as possible,” Miles said. “If that means starting Huey, Dewey and Louie, that’s who we’re going to start. Or if it’s Larry, Curly and Moe, I don’t care who starts.
“But we’ve got to be able to sub to have the strongest team out there for the longest amount of time until fatigue or foul trouble sets in.”