WASHINGTON — Jordy Tshimanga was down, but he wasn’t out. And the return of coach Tim Miles to the Nebraska Cornhuskers men’s basketball program meant one less hard question he was going to have to ask himself.
Namely: Stay or go?
“I would’ve definitely reconsidered my options if it wasn’t him at the head coach position,” the Huskers’ freshman center told Land of 10 Wednesday night after the Cornhuskers fell to Penn State at the Big Ten Tournament, ending their season with a 76-67 overtime defeat.
“All the guys here, most of the guys here, are all guys that he recruited. So I think it would make a change to the team (roster) if it wasn’t him as head coach.”
Tshimanga, a 6-foot-11 Canadian, is one of five freshmen at the core of the Big Red roster. With five sophomores among that group as well, the Huskers (12-19) fielded one of the youngest rosters in the Big Ten, if not the entire Power 5 field.
Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst tweeted after the game that he looked “forward to next season” under Miles’ leadership, and that “the future is bright!”
Tshimanga said Huskers players were not consulted in the athletic director’s decision to back Miles, whose record is 41-55 in the three seasons since taking the Big Red to the NCAA Tournament in the spring of 2014.
‘Although people see all the records, the records are one part of it.’
— Nebraska center Jordy Tshimanga
“It’s more like a business type (of decision),” the center said. “And we are the players and we focus on basketball and school, and they deal with the rest.”
Tshimanga, who averaged 4.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest, said the players wanted to repay Eichorst’s trust in Miles and that the coach deserved to return, despite three straight losing campaigns, “because what he’s built here so far has been good.
“Although people see all the records, the records are one part of it. But of the other parts, if you look at it, what he has done to the program since he came here is really amazing. And so we look forward to next year to even build on that. And to do so and thank (Miles) back and get some more wins for him next year.”
Wednesday’s tourney opener was even more draining physically than it was emotionally for Tshimanga, who collected 6 points and 4 rebounds off the bench. In a see-saw tilt of droughts — and runs — the Huskers saved their best for last, closing regulation on a 14-5 spurt that was capped by an Ed Morrow layup that tied the score at 60-each with 24 seconds left in the second frame.
Senior guard Tai Webster fouled out with 3:24 left in overtime and with the Huskers down 63-60. The air petered out of the balloon from there.
“It was very long,” Tshimanga sighed. “And after that loss, we didn’t accept (it) but after that loss, we adjusted. (We) came into the locker room and the coach did what a good coach would do, and just calmed us down and told us what was up for next year and he was proud of us and we fought to the end.”