Nebraska Cornhuskers (7-17, 3-14) vs Iowa Hawkeyes (18-7, 12-6)
Thursday, Mar. 4, 2021 – 8 p.m. CT
Radio: Husker Sports Network
Internet: FOX Sports App
1. Continue the chemistry
Nebraska’s offensive flow, cohesiveness, and ball movement have been as good over the past two games as we’ve seen all season.
There’s a direct correlation between that improvement and the absence and now the departure of Teddy Allen, whose play style required such a high volume of shots that it almost became a roadblock for NU’s offense reaching its full potential.
But it also had to do with the promotions of senior Thorir Thorbjarnarson and Kobe Webster into the starting lineup. Those two have been instrumental in creating exceptional spacing and passing in the last two wins.
Maybe more than anything, though, Trey McGowens has emerged as the primary point guard and the clear leader on the floor. In his 12-point, five-assist performance against Rutgers, McGowens controlled everything Nebraska did with the ball.
Establishing role identity has been a struggle for the Huskers all season, but they now finally seem to be coming together. Better late than never.
2. Keep Garza in check
Iowa senior Luka Garza has been the best post player in the country for the past two seasons, and he’ll have every chance to earn his second straight Big Ten Player of the Year honor.
He’s the second-leading scorer in the nation at 24.3 points per game, and he attacks in various ways. Not only is the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Garza shooting 55 percent from the field, but he’s also hitting 46 percent from behind the arc with 35 made threes.
Simply put, the Huskers must do everything they can to make anyone else on the Hawkeyes have to beat them.
The good news is that strategy worked to near perfection in NU’s home win over Iowa last season. Garza still ended up with 16 points and 18 rebounds, but the Hawkeyes shot just 4-of-33 (12.1 percent) on 3-pointers and only got to the free-throw line five times.
However, the rematch in Iowa City was the complete opposite of what Nebraska needed to happen. Garza still got his with 22 points, but Joe Weiskamp dropped a career-high 30 while Iowa shot 49 percent from the field and knocked down 11 3-pointers.
Nebraska’s only chance is to keep Garza from taking the game over while also hoping his teammates have an off-night.
3. Bring the defensive intensity
Nebraska might not see a more potent offensive opponent this season than it will against Iowa tonight.
The Hawkeyes came in leading the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally with 84.6 points per game and rank third in the conference in field goal percentage (49.1%).
They also lead the league in 3-point shooting (40.1%), assists per game (18.9), and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.99-to-1).
That said, Nebraska has been playing some of its best team defense of the season lately.
The Huskers currently rank 33rd nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency at 92.5 points allowed per 100 possessions. That stands as the highest rating ever by a Fred Hoiberg team at the college level. His previous best was 55th at Iowa State in 2013-14.
NU has to play with the same level of defensive energy and effort it did in shutting down Rutgers if it’s going to have any shot at keeping up with Iowa tonight.
Iowa (-16) 82, Nebraska 71
Robin’s season record: 19-5
vs. the spread: 13-11