Nebraska-Rhode Island Preview
Nebraska coach Tim Miles isn’t overly concerned about the Cornhuskers’ slow starts. Their struggles on the glass seem much more worrisome heading into their first road test.
The No. 21 Huskers may have a difficult time relieving some of that anxiety against a team that has been one of the nation’s best on the boards early in the season.
Nebraska looks to avoid its fifth straight nonconference road defeat Saturday night when it visits a Rhode Island squad looking to extend its best start in five years.
After falling behind by six in the first four minutes in a season-opening 80-61 win over Northern Kentucky, the Huskers bounced back from a similar start in Tuesday’s 82-56 victory over visiting Central Arkansas.
The Huskers (2-0) led by two with less than four minutes left in the first half and shot 42.3 percent with nine turnovers and only three assists in the first 20 minutes.
Junior guard Benny Parker has provided a spark off the bench with 12 points and four steals in the two games.
"It does seem like when Benny comes in things pop up in a hurry so maybe I will just sub quicker," Miles said. "I don’t like slow starts, but I am not ready to change the lineup. Maybe decide schematically what we are going to do."
Nebraska has dropped its last four nonconference road games by an average of 17.0 points. The Huskers lost their first seven overall away from home last season before winning three of their final four.
Things may not be as easy to fix on the boards. Nebraska had a slim 40-35 advantage over Central Arkansas, which had been outrebounded 96-53 in its previous two games, and was outworked on the boards 36-33 by Northern Kentucky.
Shavon Shields, who averaged a team-high 5.8 rebounds in 2013-14, pulled down 11 while scoring 16 points Tuesday.
"We are awful on the glass right now," Miles said. "Rebounding is a little bit of everything, if you do not guard the ball well, you will not rebound the ball well. So it is a little bit of everything. We will have our hands full with that (at Rhode Island)."
The Rams, looking to open 3-0 for the first time since winning their first four in 2009, come in with a plus-17.0 rebounding margin that ranks among the nation’s best.
Gilvydas Biruta has pulled down 18 in two games, while Hassan Martin has 16 to go along with a team-leading 39 points. Martin had 18 points and eight boards in last Sunday’s 72-56 home win over UMass-Lowell.
E.C. Matthews has yet to get going, averaging 11.5 points after scoring 14.3 per game as a freshman.
"We know we’re playing a good team, so we can’t make a lot of mistakes," senior T.J. Buchanan said. "We have to make shots and most importantly, we have to defend."
The Rams have limited opponents to 36.4 percent shooting, including 5 of 28 from 3-point range. They’ll have to keep a close watch on Terran Petteway, who followed up a 25-point effort in the opener with 23 against Central Arkansas.
Petteway, who led the Big Ten with 18.1 points per game in 2013-14, has made 9 of 18 from beyond the arc.
The Cornhuskers cruised to an 83-63 home win in the only meeting between the teams on Nov. 20, 2011.
Rhode Island has dropped its last 26 games versus ranked opponents.