LINCOLN, Neb. – Nebraska coach Doc Sadler used two words to sum up why his Cornhuskers lost 62-46 to 22nd-ranked Michigan on Wednesday night.
"Bad offense," Sadler said.
The Huskers (11-12, 3-9 Big Ten) shot 22 percent in the first half and 39 percent for the game. It was their second straight game without center Jorge Brian Diaz, who's probably out for the rest of the season because of chronic soreness in his feet.
Sadler began putting in a four-guard system at Monday's practice, and the coach said his players haven't had enough time to adjust to not having a true low-post presence.
"It's bad," Sadler said. "I'm not going to sit here and defend that offense. But it'll get better. As our guys can tell you, we spent the last two days working on opening the floor up. You have to give your guys some confidence and they have to know what they're doing. I could panic. I ain't going to do that."
It took a while for the Wolverines to get their offense going. Their struggles with shooting on the road continued in the first half, but they still led because Nebraska's offense was even worse.
A 15-4 Michigan burst started a second half in which the Wolverines made 16 of their first 19 shots and built their lead to as many as 26 points.
"We gave them permission to make shots," Michigan coach John Beilein said, smiling.
Zack Novak scored 14 points to go over 1,000 for his career and Michigan (18-7, 8-4) won for only the second time in six Big Ten road games. The Huskers lost their third straight.
Playing on the road for the fifth time in six games — and three days after its 64-54 loss at Michigan State — the Wolverines had no trouble against a downtrodden team that's one game out of last place in its first season in the Big Ten.
The Wolverines, who came in shooting 43 percent in Big Ten road games, finished at 52 percent after making 32 percent in the first half. Despite the poor shooting, Michigan led 22-15 — the Huskers' season low for points in a half.
Novak said he and his teammates got together at halftime and agreed to look for great rather than good shots, to play more of an inside-out game and limit 3-pointers.
After going 5 for their first 17 on 3s, the Wolverines made 6 of 7 the rest of the way and shot 76.2 percent from the floor in the second half.
"We started with three 3s to start the game and got a little trigger-happy," Beilein said. "We tried to spread the floor (the second half) and get in the lane. We have to be very diverse in our game and be more attacking as far as getting the ball inside."
Nebraska never did get going on the offensive end.
The teams hadn't met since 1992, and it was Michigan's first visit to Lincoln since the Huskers beat the then-No. 1 Wolverines in December 1964.
Nebraska wasn't going to pull an upset this night.
The Huskers didn't break the 20-point barrier until 12 minutes remained and didn't go over 40 points until the final minute.
They missed 11 3-pointers in a row before Bo Spencer, who had 13 points, made the Huskers' first one with 12:22 left in the game.
"I was disappointed we lost the basketball game, but I'm so proud of our guys," Sadler said. "I thought they played as hard as you could play. To not make shots; any of you who have played basketball understand how difficult it could be, maybe to quit competing on the defensive end. I thought our guys competed for 40 minutes on that end. We just didn't shoot the basketball."
Toney McCray fired up an air ball from the corner to start Nebraska's stretch of 1-for-13 shooting to start the game. The Huskers' second field goal didn't come until 9:12 before half.
The Huskers, thanks to Michigan's shooting woes, had a chance to take the lead after pulling to 16-15. But Brandon Ubel missed an easy dunk when Spencer gave him a perfect alley-oop pass.
It was that kind of night for a Nebraska team that, with an 8-7 home record, has its most losses in Lincoln since the 1962-63 team dropped nine at home.
"I'm disheartened. I hope our fans are disappointed," Sadler said. "But what does that mean? You get up tomorrow and go back to work. Every player in that locker room is disappointed... It's not their fault. They're giving me everything they've got. I'm 100-percent proud of them. If they were throwing in the towel I'd be frustrated, disappointed, all that stuff. I'm disappointed in our record but definitely not disappointed in their effort."