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February 27, 2010The conversation between Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler and the small group of reporters prior to Friday's practice was supposed to be geared toward the prospects for next season and why fans should be optimistic for the future.
Sadler, however, wasn't quite interested in looking that far ahead just yet.
Despite posting the worst record in the Big 12 Conference and just three games remaining before the conference tournament, Sadler said he still has a gut feeling that the Huskers' season would end on a high note.
"I'm still excited about this year," Sadler said. "This is how crazy I am - I really think that something is going to happen with this basketball team, because they're giving effort. I said that even after the Texas game, they just blitzed us, but it wasn't because the last five minutes of the game we had given up. We had still played hard. We just have to get four or five guys on the same night doing something."
As Nebraska gets ready for today's 3 p.m. tip-off with Texas Tech at the Devaney Center, Sadler said his team has made significant growth over the course of the season, though it admittedly has taken a little longer to get to this point than he had hoped.
Even so, the Huskers are closer to finally putting together a complete game now than they arguably have been all season, especially since the start of Big 12 play. For example, one of NU's biggest problem areas earlier in the year was finding a way to get its offense going and score points.
By focusing on the offensive end the past few weeks in practice, the Huskers have had a decent scoring run with an average of 73.3 points over their past three games, including a conference season best 87 points at then-No. 7 Kansas State.
"Probably more than anything what I'm disappointed in myself with is the one thing we were doing such a good job of was defending, and I've done a poor job in the last three weeks of really staying committed to that," Sadler said. "Because we were having such a hard time scoring, I had to spend all my time on offense. The good news is that we're scoring some points, but now we've got to spend this last week and a half working on becoming a good defensive team again."
For a team that has led or been within one basket of the lead in the second half in nine of its 12 league losses, including leading or being tied with less than 10 minutes to play in five of those defeats, finding a way to step up defensively down the stretch could be the key to prevent going winless through the entire month of February.
"When you're dealing with a situation like this, there's so many things you can get better at," Sadler said. "Maybe I forgot a rule that I should have remembered, which is stick with what you do good and the rest of it will come. Don't become mediocre in what you do good, and I think that's what we've done."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
While Texas Tech may feature one of the better backcourts in the Big 12 with John Roberson, Mike Singletary and Nick Okorie, Nebraska should have a pretty big advantage down low with redshirt freshman center Jorge Brian Diaz. Look for the Huskers to try and get the ball to Diaz up high and utilize his quick hands and soft touch around the rim to get some easy baskets against the smaller Red Raider post players.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Freshman forward Christian Standhardinger came up huge in his first career start in Wednesday's loss to Iowa State, scoring a team-high 25 points along with eight rebounds and three assists. His 25 points were the ninth most ever by an NU freshman, and were also the most ever by a freshman in his first start. His total came just five points short of tying Tyron Lue (30) for the most ever by a Husker freshman.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE RED RAIDERS:
Few players have gone as undeservedly unnoticed as Texas Tech's Roberson. Not only is the senior point guard playing an average of 35.2 minutes per game this season, he also leads the Red Raiders with 14.7 points and 5.2 assists per contest to go along with a team-best 50 3-pointers and 36 steals.