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February 10, 2010For a brief moment on Saturday, it looked as if Nebraska actually had a chance to pull off the impossible.
Holding a 43-39 lead over No. 1 Kansas on the road early in the second half, the Huskers appeared to be on the verge of getting their second Big 12 Conference win in the most unlikely of places.
But as has been their biggest downfall since the start of league play a month ago, the Huskers quickly relinquished their lead in a span of less than two minutes and never got it back, as the final 10 minutes of the game once again proved to be their downfall.
Of its seven Big 12 losses, Nebraska has either had the lead or trailed by as few as one point with 10 minutes remaining in four of them. A combination of poor shooting and/or shot selection and costly defensive lapses have kept NU from coming through when it counts the most, as the late-game letdowns in the last 10 minutes have been a primary reason why its off to its worst start in conference play in 21 years.
As they once again try to rebound from a disappointing loss tonight at home against Baylor at 8:05 p.m., the Huskers say they are determined to cure their struggles in the final minutes.
"It's always the second half with us," junior point guard Lance Jeter said. "We prepare so much and we do good in practice, and when the second half comes, I don't know, we just lose all focus? We get the lead, and we just do stupid stuff. We take a bad shot or we miss an assignment on defense. If we can just stay focused and know what we've got to do, I know we can be successful in the second half."
Head coach Doc Sadler couldn't pinpoint his team's struggles at the end of games to just one or two areas. Instead, he said it's generally been a number of self-inflicted miscues that have allowed opponents to breakaway down the stretch.
"It could be as simple as missing a free throw on the front end of a one-and-one. It's really close. We don't have the room for error that some of the other teams have."
One aspect Sadler did mention was that after going an entire month with just one victory, his players may be beginning to doubt their ability to hold on and win games in the clutch.
While he said the Huskers have shown noticeable improvements in a lot of areas over the past few weeks, Sadler said they still have a ways to go before the build up to confidence in themselves that they can win games in the finals minutes - even against the top-ranked team in the country.
"I do think the team's getting tougher," Sadler said. "(But) you've got to have the confidence in yourself and your team to get to the very maximum of mental toughness. I'm sure there's still some doubts in some of these guys' minds. Not in their ability, but more like 'Can we really beat these teams.'
"That's what we've got to get. That's where the next step has to take place."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
It's been nearly a month since Nebraska has had to face a team that boasts an almost exclusively zone oriented defense like Baylor will bring to the Devaney Center. With a roster full of tall, long-armed and long-legged players, the Bears make it extremely difficult for teams to get the ball inside and find passing lanes toward the basket. Look for the Huskers to try and run the floor as much as possible to avoid letting Baylor get set defensively.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Redshirt freshman Jorge Brian Diaz had one of the best games of his young career against Kansas, as he finished with team high 20 points and nine rebounds. The performance highlighted an impressive five-game stretch for Diaz, has he's led the Huskers with 9.8 points per game and shot 48.9 percent from the field during the stretch.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE BEARS:
Junior guard LaceDarius Dunn comes into tonight's contest as one of the hottest shooters in the Big 12, averaging 21.0 points per game in conference action. Dunn has hit 47.9 percent from the floor (57-of-119) in conference play, including an impressive 49.2 percent (29-of-59) from 3-point range. His 6.0 rebounds per game also rank second on the team.