The game itself, Nathan Hawkins said, wasn't going too fast for him.

Rather, he was going too fast for the game.

At least, that’s how it felt in Hawkins’ head.

“That’s what Coach was saying,” Hawkins said, “that it looked like I was trying to think too much, things were going too fast in my head, and I just had to relax and play.”

That’s why Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles, two games into the Big Ten Conference season, decided to take Hawkins, a true freshman guard, out of the rotation. He’d logged a combined 20 minutes in games against Iowa and Ohio State, but didn't score.

Miles’ decision, though, wasn't permanent.

“Coach took me into his office a couple of weeks ago,” Hawkins said, “and just said, ‘Stay ready, we’re trying to work you back in the lineup. You've been working hard. Just stay ready.'”

Hawkins did just that, and responded when his number was called, hitting a crucial game-tying three-pointer in Nebraska’s victory last week against Indiana.

“It felt good to be back out on the floor,” Hawkins said. “It’s just a different feeling to be out on the court, helping your team, rather than just cheering them on. You just feel you’re more a part of it, being in there with them.

“It felt so much easier to relax and play, don’t worry so much about doing this or that, just play the way I know how to play.”

Now, Hawkins hopes to keep contributing as Nebraska (11-9, 3-5 Big Ten) begins a two-game road trip this week with Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. game at No. 10 Michigan (16-5, 8-1).

“The ball always moves with him,” Miles said. “He passes well, he’s a smart player, makes good decisions. He just needs to continue to improve in all facets of the game.”

Hawkins’ opportunity for more minutes is partly because Deverell Biggs is no longer on the team, although Miles said he’d been thinking about inserting Hawkins in previous games, at Purdue and Penn State.

That didn't materialize, but with Nebraska trailing by 13 points at halftime against Indiana, Miles had a gut feeling to turn to Hawkins, who hadn't played in five straight games.

“They were playing a lot of zone, and Nate’s an excellent shooter,” Miles said. “We just felt like he was the right guy to bring in. We didn't play Benny (Parker), and I don’t think we played David (Rivers) the second half.

“When we looked at things, I just kind of made a gut-decision call. We talked about it a little bit at halftime as a staff, and then I remember yelling at (assistant) Craig Smith, ‘Put Hawkins in!’ It was just one of those gut feelings. I thought he would come out and really help us.”

Hawkins was only 1-of-6 on three-pointers for the season and had passed up a couple of open looks from the arc against Indiana before stepping up and hitting his three-pointer that forced a 46-46 tie. That kick-started an 8-0 run that gave NU the lead for good.

“I heard the guys yelling, ‘Shoot it!’ and Coach yelling, ‘Shoot it!’” Hawkins said. “The first ones I didn't shoot, and then we had a timeout, and Coach looked me in the eyes and said, ‘If you have an open shot, shoot it and knock it down!’ So when I got back in, I waited for my shot to come.”