February 19, 2009

Harley waiting to finally break out of scoring slump

Steve Harley is frustrated.

His shots aren't falling, he's not scoring, and by no small coincidence, Nebraska's offense is struggling. After emerging as one of the Huskers' top scoring threats towards the end of last season, the senior guard has hit a wall the past month offensively.

Harley scored in double figures in 11 straight games earlier this season, highlighted by a season-high 21 points against IPFW and two 18-point performances. Since the start of Big 12 Conference play, however, his numbers have been mediocre at best.

Harley's best scoring output in league play came in a 12-point effort on the road against Colorado, and he's only managed to score more than 10 points just three times in 11 conference games.

In Nebraska's past three games, he's scored a total of nine points on 4-of-22 shooting from the field.

"Of course I've noticed," Harley said. "I haven't been shooting good. I've got to play with more confidence and just know the shot's going to go in when I shoot it… It's frustrating, but I can't hang down my head, because we've got to go out and play the next game.

"I'm not having good games, but we're still getting wins somehow. I've just been trying to do what I can defensively or whatever to try and help my team win."

In Wednesday's win over Colorado, Harley scored just five points on 2-of-8 shooting from the floor, including a pair a badly missed 3-point attempts. While the Huskers were still able to sneak away with a 46-41 victory, head coach Doc Sadler said Harley would have to find his scoring touch soon if Nebraska was to have any shot at an NCAA Tournament berth.

"He's got to score," Sadler said. "I think when we were playing our best last year is when Steve was getting 13, 14, 15 points per game. We've got to find a way to get him back to where he's getting in double figures, and there's no question Steve can do that. He's one of our best offensive players. I'm concerned, but I know Steve will be ready."

Sadler was then asked if he could pinpoint any reason in particular for Harley's shooting woes. Like Harley and pretty much everyone else, Sadler was completely in the dark.

"I don't know," he said. "Maybe it's my fault. I've got to find a way to get him going offensively and maybe put him in a more comfortable position. Maybe getting him again, like last year, off the dribble… He needs to score for us to have a chance to win."

From talking with Harley, Sadler and his teammates, it appears Harley's problem is a completely mental issue. There's no question he has the ability to be one of the Huskers top scorers, as he's proven he's capable of it numerous times in the past.

Just like a baseball player going through a prolonged slump at the plate, Harley is simply waiting for that one breakout game to get him out of his current scoring funk.

"Right now, it's all mental," Harley said. "It has nothing to do with anything physical right now. All it takes is one good game."

With just five more games remaining on Nebraska's regular season schedule, does he think that one good game is going to come in time?

"I know it is," he said. "I'm just waiting, just like y'all waiting."

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