December 20, 2008

Free throw struggles plague Huskers on both ends

It might be one of the more overlooked aspects of the game, but Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler sure isn't taking it lightly.


After the Huskers dropped their second straight road game to a Pac-10 opponent last week against Oregon State, 64-63, Sadler said one stat in particular stood out as one of the biggest reasons for his team's down fall.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 5:05 p.m. CST

Where: Devaney Sports Center 13,595

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (42-29 overall)

Radio: Husker Sports Radio Network stations (Play-by-play: Kent Pavelka. Color: Matt Davison.)


TV: None


Satellite Radio: None

Series: Nebraska leads 2-0






In a game that came down to the final seconds, the Huskers made just 14 free throws compared to Oregon State's 21. The free throw difference might not seem like that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but the fact that it's become somewhat of a trend makes it a bit more concerning.


In the Huskers' loss to Arizona State, the Sun Devils hit 17 free throws compared to just 10 by Nebraska. In the past two games, NU has attempted 31 free throws to its opponents' 47.


Even going back to some of Nebraska's victories, the Huskers have had issues with sending opponents to the line for free points while not drawing fouls and getting to the line themselves.


Against Texas Christian earlier this season, the Horned Frogs made a startling 27 of 38 free throws. In fact, Nebraska has only made and attempted more free throws than its opponent three times this season.






IPFW (4-6, 0-0 Summit League)

5:05 p.m.


Nebraska (6-2, 0-0 Big 12)

No TV






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 6-2




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

8.1/3.7

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

12.6/3.7

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

7.0/3.4

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

5.9/2.7

G

44

Ryan Anderson (6-4, 205)

Jr

6.1/4.6





IPFW 4-6




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

12

Ben Botts (6-0, 165)

So

11.6/2.4

G

10

Zach Plackemeier (6-3, 190)

So

7.5/3.2

G

2

Jakari Johnson (6-4, 175)

Sr

0.7/0.3

F

31

Deilvez Yearby (6-6, 212)

Jr

7.7/6.6

F

24

David Carson (6-7, 220)

Sr

15.4/5.3






"We've got to do a better job of getting to the free throw line on offense and not letting teams get free points at the line off of dumb fouls on our part," Sadler said. "I don't think we played a bad game (Saturday), we just gave up too many points at the line. When you're not scoring many points like us, you can't afford to give away free points like that. That'll get you beat."


The Huskers will look to get back on track both in their free throw margin and in the win column tonight when they play host to Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne at the Devaney Sports Center at 5 p.m.


The Mastodons (4-6) have held their own at the charity stripe, as they're currently shooting 71.4 percent from the line and are averaging 12.8 free throws made per game. At the same time, they've also sent their opponents to the line for 197 free throw attempts.


Along with getting a much-needed victory, the Huskers are looking at tonight's game as a chance to work on preventing the Mastodons from getting free points at the free throw line while also finding ways to get some free points of their own.


"I think it's very critical," senior guard Ade Dagunduro said. "For some reason we've been in foul trouble a lot and sending guys to the line a lot this year. We need to work hard to try and keep that to a minimum. I don't know if it's us being overly aggressive or us just getting cheap fouls. Whatever it is we have to get it down to a minimum. In terms of getting fouls, we've got to do a better job of attacking the basket. They're free points, so we've got to do a better job of trying to get there."


WHAT TO WATCH


In Nebraska's past two losses, Arizona State and Oregon State both ran effective zone defenses that forced the Huskers to rely on perimeter shots instead of driving to the basket in their half-court offense.


While IPFW isn't known for running a zone defense, Sadler said he wouldn't be surprised if the Mastodons implemented one just for the Huskers tonight. If they do, it will be interesting to see if NU can finally get some offense going against a zone.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


He may not be racking up the numbers on the box scores, but redshirt freshman guard Brandon Richardson is easily one of the team leaders in what Sadler refers to as "effort plays."


The Huskers are in need of a spark after two straight performances, and Richardson just might be the player to give it to them. If he can make some plays diving for loose balls or making a clutch steal, Richardson could help give NU a big momentum boost and get back on the winning track.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE MASTODONS


Forward David Carson has been the driving force behind IPFW's offense this season, as he leads the Mastodons with an average of 15.4 points per game while shooting 43.7 percent from the field. He's connected on a 79.2 percent (42-of-53) of his shots from the free throw line, and ranks second on the team with 5.3 rebounds per game.


As usual, the Huskers will have to make a concentrated effort to contain a solid post presence like Carson. At 6 feet, 7 inches and 220 pounds, Carson is far from the biggest player NU has faced this year, but he still should provide a tough challenge down low regardless.



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