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Interview with the Enemy: Nebraska

We get some insight on this year’s Cornhuskers squad

NCAA Basketball: Hall of Fame Classic-Missouri State at Nebraska Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma State heads to Sioux Falls, South Dakota this Sunday to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers on the hardwood for the first time 2011.

The Cowboys are hoping to end three-game losing streak against a 9-2 Cornhusker squad

It’s been awhile since the two teams faced off, so there’s not much familiarity. To help get better acquainted with our former conference brethren, we asked Patrick Gerhart of Corn Nation a few questions about this Nebraska squad.

Phillip Slavin: Nebraska is led by its three “juniors”; James Palmer Jr., Isaac Copeland Jr., and Glynn Watson Jr. Which one would you say has been the most important to Nebraska’s success this season?

Patrick Gerhart: “That’s a great question and I especially like the “juniors” part. All of these players have a very strong place on the court when they are out there. But, if I had to pick it would be James Palmer Jr. He is leading the team in scoring with 18.7 points per game while also averaging a nice 3.2 rebounds. When it comes to pure athletic talent, he also has that above the rest. I don’t think we have a player that comes close to him. When he’s hot, the game changes and you can easily tell. Issac Copeland is a close second but he doesn’t have the court presence that Palmer has.”

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Nebraska vs Michigan Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

PS: What is Nebraska’s biggest strength and biggest weakness?

PG: “Biggest strength would be the experience they have out on the court. Most of the starters have been playing with each other for at least two or three years now and their chemistry has lead them to where they are now. This team has been beat by superior talent and coaching, not by their inability to play together on the court. To beat Nebraska you have to out hustle, coach, and shoot.”

“As for weakness, I would say their occasional dry spells in shooting that has plagued them for year. It drives us fans crazy because you can see it coming most of the time and it can last anywhere from two to eight or ten minutes. It’s sounds absurd but it has happened a lot the past few years. They seemed to have shaken it for the most part this season but it still creeps up now and then. It happened in the bad loss against Texas Tech and again against Minnesota. There was a few small ones against Creighton last week but luckily they had enough of a lead at that point that they could overcome it.”

PS: If there is one player who could come off the bench and get hot, who would that be?

PG: “The Huskers have a lot of young talent on the bench but only so much of that has translated to good depth this season. There have been a couple of players who have had some eye raising games but nothing that has stayed consistent through the season. Freshman Brady Heiman has had the most recent success coming off the bench the last few games. He’s an in state kid that has good size and should develop into a very good basketball player in the future. Another one to keep an eye on is Nana Akenten. He had a couple of very big games early on in the season but has cooled down a bit. However, his early performance shows that he has potential to come in and cause problems for opposing teams. I know you asked for one but I had to add Nana in there.”

PS: One effective way of slowing down Oklahoma State is with full-court pressure defense. How effective is Nebraska at that?

PG: Nebraska doesn’t do a whole lot of full court press. At least not this season. They’re the type of team who will shoot and get set back in defense. However, it would not surprise me if Nebraska would switch to a system that took advantage of this if Oklahoma State became a problem for Nebraska as the game moved along.”

PS: For most Oklahoma State fans, this is a great game to see on the schedule (though it would have been a LOT better as a home-and-home). How are Nebraska fans feeling about seeing the Cowboys in the non-conference?

PG: “Most that I know of are looking forward to it. It’s a pretty easy drive up to Sioux Falls for the eastern half of the state and the Pentagon has a very good reputation for playing in and fan experience. Also, it’s always fun when we play a former conference mate. Oklahoma State has a good history in basketball and I believe the respect is there at least with the fans. Henry Iba’s son Moe coached at Nebraska back on the 80’s and I think a lot of the fans know of the connection.”

“Hopefully there will be a home and home series in the future. I have yet to see a game at Gallagher-Iba and would like to at some point. It’s on my list and I might as well check it off if the Huskers have a chance to play the Cowboys there at some point.”

PS: What does Nebraska have to do to win this game and what is your score prediction?

PG: “I believe Nebraska will have to shoot well and early in the game. As I stated above one of Nebraska’s achilles heels is their uncanny ability to go into multiple scoring droughts throughout the game. Both of their losses so far this season has partially been because of them.”

“Oklahoma State has had some tough losses to some good teams so far this year. The win loss record is a little deceiving because of that. Villanova is the returning NCAA Champ, Houston is currently ranked, and we both share a loss to Minnesota. That would make a tough non conference slate for many teams. However, I think Nebraska will have the defense to shut down the Cowboys early on and pull off the win in South Dakota.”

“University of Nebraska 83 - Oklahoma State University 71”