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March 10, 2010Following Nebraska's dismal performance in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State to close out the regular season, senior guard Sek Henry stood up in the locker room and preached that the Huskers were about to start a whole new season.
With the start of the Big 12 Conference Tournament today against No. 5-seed Missouri at 2 p.m. in Kansas City, No. 12 Nebraska will be looking to erase the more than forgettable memories of the past 16 games in hopes of saving its season with a league championship.
As Henry said, the idea is for the Huskers to look at the conference tournament as a chance to start over from scratch. That, however, will be a little easier said than done.
After finishing just 2-14 in the Big 12 to mark its worst conference record in school history, Nebraska will have to find a way to flip the switch it's been trying to flip the past two months just a little more than two days after suffering one of its worst losses of the season.
While it will obviously be the goal to make an unprecedented run from last place to conference champion, it's not as if the Huskers are unaware of just how difficult the task will be.
"All that sounds good, but the fact of the matter is we've got to play well," head coach Doc Sadler said. "We've got to play well and good things have to happen for us. Just because it's another day and you're starting a tournament, you're going to have to rely on the things that you've been doing, and if it works for you, you're going to get some confidence. But just because it's going to be a tournament doesn't mean you're just going to show up and everything's going to be OK.
"Obviously the last 16 ball games haven't been what you would like to have happen, but at the same time, it's not just like it's a new day so everything's going to change. You've got to hope that because we've continued to work hard, as I've said since it all started going the direction that it has, that something good is going to happen. The fact of the matter is that it better happen quick if it's going to. Hopefully it will."
"It's just being a competitor," junior point guard Lance Jeter said. "This is the Big 12. This is one of the best conferences in the country, and if you're not a competitor, you shouldn't play. I feel like this is to prove for the young guys and the old guys that the Big 12 is a good conference, and the teams that are in there are good, and I feel like we could be one of those teams and make a run."
Since things first started going down hill at the start of the Big 12 season, Sadler has constantly insisted that if the Huskers continued to work as hard as they possible could, success would inevitably follow as a result. Though that success still has yet to show up, Sadler said that mentality is the only thing his team has left to hold on to at this point.
"That's the only thing I know, guys," Sadler said. "The only thing I know is things aren't going good. Let's not try to say that they are. But the only thing I know to do when they're not going good is continue to do the things that you believe in. I think we've gotten back to that in the last week.
"As I've told the team, if you continue to practice hard, good things usually happen for somebody. But there's no question about it, we need to have some shots fall for us to have a chance to win some games. That happens, and obviously you'll start feeling better about yourself."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Because of the way Missouri has shown it can jump all over teams in a hurry, Nebraska is coming into its third meeting with the Tigers with the plan of controlling the ball as long as possible to limit the number of fast breaks Missouri can capitalize on. Look for the Huskers to do their best to keep the score low and rely on their half-court defense to keep them in the game with a chance to win the final minutes.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Earlier this week, Jeter was honored for his efforts in his first season at Nebraska by the Big 12 media, as he was named to the All-Newcomer Team. During the regular season, Jeter ranked in the conference's top-10 in both assists (121, 3.9 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.0), and he has a chance to become just the fourth Husker in the Big 12 era to average 4.0 or more assists per game for a season.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE TIGERS:
Guard Marcus Denmon may be Missouri's most dangerous and underrated threat this season, ranking second on the team with 11 points per game while coming off the bench. What has made him such a threat has been his accuracy from 3-point range, as Denmon leads the Tigers with 67 3-pointers this season. In MU's last meeting against Nebraska, he scored a game-high 24 points on 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.