February 14, 2009

NU hopes to keep momentum going against Tigers

There's been a different aura surrounding Nebraska basketball this week since upsetting Texas last week. Suddenly, the Huskers are getting some attention on the national level, and a ticket to the NCAA Tournament has an actual chance at becoming a reality.


For a team that wasn't even expected to finish in the top half of the Big 12 Conference standings coming into the year, the recent hype has been somewhat of a welcomed change. At the same time, the Huskers are well aware that if they don't keep winning - like in today's game against No. 17/19 Missouri - all that attention will be for nothing.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 12:47 p.m. CST

Where: Mizzou Arena (15,061)

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (52-34 overall)

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


TV: Big 12 Network (Play-by-play: Mitch Holtus. Color: Rich Zvosec.)

Series: Tigers lead 122-91






"I think anytime you get so-called perceived momentum, you want to take advantage of it as much as possible," NU head coach Doc Sadler said. "I think that with the way that we played against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas, I think everybody understands that we're playing about as well as we can play. You get three straight wins, which is hard to do in any league but especially this league, it does give you a different look.


"You get people starting to talk about you, and all of us like that. As a coach, as a player, you'd rather them be talking about that than a guy being on the hot seat. It's a credit to our players, but we need to try and take advantage of what little momentum we've got, and the way you do that is we need to win games."


Keeping up that momentum will be easier said than done today against the Tigers, as the Huskers travel to Columbia, Mo., for a 12:47 p.m. tip against a team riding an equally big wave of success.


Though Nebraska won the first match-up in Lincoln 56-51, both teams have come along way since then. While the Huskers come into the game winners of three straight, the Tigers on a four-game winning streak and have won eight of their last nine.


Both teams are also coming off huge victories as well, as Missouri just knocked off rival Kansas with a buzzer-beater on Monday.






Missouri (21-4, 8-2 Big 12)

12:47 p.m.


Nebraska (15-7, 5-4 Big 12)

Big 12 Network






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 15-7




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

8.9/3.2

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

11.5/3.5

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

11.8/4.0

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

7.6/2.3

F

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

2.2/2.4





Missouri 21-4




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

11

Zaire Taylor (6-4, 189)

Jr

5.7/3.5

G

4

J.T. Tiller (6-3, 200)

Jr

7.5/3.5

G

24

Kim English (6-6, 200)

Fr

7.2/1.8

F

1

DeMarre Carroll (6-8, 225)

Sr

17.4/7.0

F

5

Leo Lyons (6-9, 244)

Sr

14.5/5.5






The only real momentum the Huskers have heading into today's contest is the fact that they've won six of their last seven meetings with the Tigers, including their past two trips to Columbia.


"The ball's bounced our way against them I guess you could say," junior guard [db]Ryan Anderson said. "I think we prepare really good. We prepare for Missouri, with what they're going to do with their schemes, and we buy into Coach's game plan. His game plan and his offensive and defensive strategies, is money. It's like, if you do what he says, it's going to work."


Talking with Sadler, that game plan will revolve heavily around ball security and slowing the tempo of the game down when they need to. Because Missouri bases so much of its game around a full-court press defense and creating points off of turnovers, Sadler has been stressing to his team to have enough patience to slow up and run its half-court offense.


However, that doesn't mean the Huskers will be afraid to run the floor with the Tigers either.


"You've got to try to get easy baskets. No matter who we play against, you've got to get it down the court as quick as you can once you get the rebound. But if you don't have good shots, the thing we try to do, we try to hold the basketball until we get a good shot. Now, if we can get a lay-up by pushing it, we're going to get a lay-up. If we have to hold the ball for 30 seconds, we're hopefully disciplined to understand that. I don't think you can beat anybody by just walking it up and down the court. You've got to get some easy baskets."


In a game that could dictate Nebraska's postseason fate, there hasn't been much of need to stress the importance a win would be for the program. That's why the Huskers know they'll have to pull out all the stops to make sure their momentum lasts a little bit longer.


"It's just being versatile, being able to adjust to counter a team," For instance, I remember we played Oregon last year, and Coach said if you want to run up and down with these guys and get the score really high, it's not going to go our way. Like Oklahoma State, we didn't control that game. We played into their hands. If we can keep the game where we want to keep it we'll be alright."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Nebraska has worked all week in preparing for Missouri's full-court press - possibly more than they've worked against a press all season. It's obvious Sadler is extremely concerned with how the Huskers handle Missouri's pressure, as the Tigers thrive off of creating turnovers and putting together big scoring runs.


It will be interesting to see how much the extra attention to the press pays off today, as Sadler has shown his team about everything the Tigers will throw at them defensively. The only problem is there's no way for Nebraska's bench players to match the speed and size of Missouri's starters.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


Senior guard Ade Dagunduro was the man of the hour following last week's win over Texas, as he hit a huge 3-pointer with 50.1 seconds remaining and scored a game-high 17 points.


With Steve Harley cooling down after a hot start to the year, Dagunduro has become NU's new leading scorer on the season with 11.8 points per game. He's also the second-leading rebounder (4.0 per game) and second on the team in blocks (10).


WHO'S HOT FOR THE TIGERS


No player concerns Sadler more coming into today's game than forward DeMarre Carroll. At 6-8, Carroll presents a unique challenge in that he can play both in the post and out on the perimeter, giving him the ability to create match-up problems in a number of ways.


He leads the Tigers with 17.4 points per game, and he's also hauling in a team-best 7.0 rebounds per contest.



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