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February 10, 2011It's a question that, at the moment at least, Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler simply doesn't have an answer for.
How do the Huskers continue to play tough, aggressive defense while also making sure to never send an opponent to the free throw line 44 times again like they did in Wednesday night's loss to Baylor?
While Nebraska has played about as well as it has all season in almost every other aspect over the past two games, it has also been its own worst enemy by giving teams countless free points at the charity stripe. In losses to Baylor and Kansas, the Huskers committed 48 fouls resulting in a combined 54 points off of 77 total free throws.
As a result, Nebraska gave up 86 and 74 points in its past two games after having only allowed two teams to score more than 70 points in its first 21 games.
"I don't know what the answer is, but we've got to do it," Sadler said. "We're putting teams to the free throw line way too many times, and we've just got to figure it out. It's not ever been a problem for us, but it's a problem right now, and we've got to get it fixed."
Finding a way to drastically cut down on the number of fouls they commit while also continuing to be one of the nation's best defensive teams will be crucial as the Huskers try to salvage what they can of the last seven games of the season.
When they take on Oklahoma State on Saturday night, it will be more important than ever.
The Cowboys will come into the Devaney Center as one of the Big 12's most productive teams from the free throw line this season, ranking third in the league in free throw percentage (72.7) and having shot the third most free throws (583) of any team in the conference.
Individually, senior point guard Keiton Page leads the Big 12 with a 91.0 free throw percentage, making 101-of-110 shots from the line. In the post, sophomore forward J.P. Olukemi ranks 10th in the league with a free throw percentage of 77.2.
"We've just got to make sure that we don't get less aggressive," Sadler said. "We've just got to be more fundamentally sound and do the things that we need to do. The room for our error and anybody else is not very big, but when you put a team to the free throw line 44 times, it amazes me that we were even as close as we were last night to even have a chance to win."
While the attention shifted towards trying to fix Nebraska's foul issues in Thursday's practice, some players still couldn't figure out exactly what happened to allow Baylor to make nearly three times more free throws than their opponent season average.
"I don't know what happened," junior guard Toney McCray said. "We thought we were at the right spots at the right time, but that's all in the ref's hands."