Ohio State vs. Nebraska, 1.26

Nebraska guard James Palmer (0) and Ohio State’s Luther Muhammad (1) chase after a loose ball in the second half on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Both players led their team in scoring in the game — Palmer with 19 points and Muhammad with 24 points. 

So, what now?

It would sure appear that Nebraska basketball has hit rock bottom in a season that started with so much promise. 

If there's one thing Nebrasketball fans know, though, it's that things can always go lower.

The "lower" hit early Saturday afternoon, crashing in as Isaac Copeland crashed to the floor after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. 

Copeland's college career is over. One of the Huskers' most popular players — not to mention one of their best — will watch from the bench as NU tries to make something of the 11 remaining regular-season games on its schedule.

"Just got to stay positive. Come back tomorrow, watch film, get better, get back in the gym," senior guard Glynn Watson said after Nebraska's loss to Ohio State.

It wasn't much, but really, what could you expect him to say? Nebraska is 2-5 in the month of January, with the only wins coming against an Indiana team that is reeling just as badly as the Huskers, and against a Penn State outfit that is now 0-9 in conference play.

All the swagger the Huskers (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten) played with in building an 11-2 mark in November and December has been replaced by hesitation, confusion and all the other bad things coaches try so desperately to keep out of their programs.

"I hear the groans. God, I’m groaning. It’s just sickening. It makes me physically sick," NU coach Tim Miles said Saturday. "At the end of the day, I think we have a strong relationship with our guys, and we need to go out there and get them in a good place and get them past some of the things."

The thing is that number mentioned above. Nebraska is still not yet halfway through its conference slate. Yes, there is still time for a rally.

But the Big Ten is a meat grinder, for sure. Sunday alone saw Michigan State, which has looked nearly invincible for the last month, fall behind by 23 before losing at Purdue. Iowa, which had climbed into the top 20 in the AP Poll, lost at Minnesota, which a few days earlier nearly got Michigan before losing on a buzzer-beater. On Saturday, Maryland, on its own hot streak, lost on a neutral floor to Illinois.

There are no easy nights. And without Copeland, Nebraska's most certainly will get harder.

Nebraska has failed to score 70 points in four straight games, and will now go against a Wisconsin team not exactly known for breakneck pace while trying to piece together an attack without its second-leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker.

"We’re going to get them to rally, try to regroup quick. Because nobody’s going to feel sorry for you," Miles said. "Wisconsin will not come in here and feel bad. They’re going to come in here ready to slug it out. And we have to have the same mentality."

Who takes Copeland's place in the starting lineup remains to be seen, but the smart money would be on Tanner Borchardt to step into the role.

The 6-foot-8, 250-pounder from Gothenburg started against Southwest Minnesota State earlier this season as Isaiah Roby sat out with a groin strain. And the former offensive line recruit is one of the few remaining frontcourt bodies a Nebraska team already woefully short on size can put on the floor.

Borchardt averages 2.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 13 minutes per game off the bench. In his one start, he had four points and nine rebounds in a blowout win.

Perhaps Nebraska rallies around Copeland, decides enough is enough and finds a way to pull out of its tailspin. Perhaps the season becomes a sad march to the finish. That will be up to NU's players and coaches to decide. The unknown, like it always seems to be with Husker hoops, is the thing.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


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