LINCOLN, Neb. – A season that went from expectations of contending for a Big Ten basketball title to uncertain job security has been a difficult one for Nebraska coach Tim Miles.
Miles, who is in his seventh season with the Cornhuskers, has been receiving heavy criticism. His team’s seven-game losing streak — one that ended by edging the Gophers 62-61 on Wednesday — put the program in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino understands how tough it can be to ignore the outside noise. His team went 15-17 last season after suffering through injuries and a suspension.
“Nobody is immune in today’s world,” said Pitino, who considers Miles a close friend. “It’s what you sign up for. It doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not easy. It’s just part of the deal. It comes with the territory. He’s a really good coach. He’s a really good person. He does things the right way. At the end of the day for all of us, it’s about putting your head in the pillow and believing what you’re doing.”
The Cornhuskers arguably got snubbed for an NCAA tournament bid last season after winning 13 league games to finish in fourth place. They were 3-10 in the Big Ten before Wednesday’s victory over the Gophers.
Pitino mentioned Miles having an “unfortunate blow” with the season-ending injury to senior forward Isaac Copeland, who tore the ACL in his left knee in late January.
Copeland was Nebraska’s second-leading scorer, averaging 14 points in 20 games this season. The Cornhuskers had only lost two consecutive games before Copeland’s injury Jan. 26 against Ohio State.
Curry out again
Redshirt sophomore center Eric Curry, who missed the first 12 games this season after knee surgery, was out for the second consecutive game because of a calf injury.
Curry, who is averaging 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 19.5 minutes this season, was limited to two points and one rebound in 28 minutes combined in his past two games against Purdue and Wisconsin.
Freshman Daniel Oturu, who supplied 16 points and four rebounds against the Cornhuskers, replaced Curry in the lineup.
“It’s not as simple as people think when you lose a guy who was starting for you,” Pitino said. “When you lose a guy who helped you win 24 games two years ago, it’s a factor.”