March 7, 2009

NU preparing for consecutive games with Baylor

Along with likely the majority of his teammates, junior guard Sek Henry has found himself trying to prepare for something he's never experienced before in his basketball career.


Beginning with today's regular-season finale on the road against Baylor, Nebraska will more than likely take on the Bear twice in a span of less than four days, as the teams are expected to meet in the first round of the Big 12 Conference Tournament on Wednesday.




PREGAME NOTES


Tip: 3:01 p.m. CST

Where: Ferrell Center (10,284)

Head Coach: Doc Sadler 3rd yr (53-38 overall)

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


TV: Big 12 Network; ESPN FullCourt (Play-by-play: Brad Sham. Color: Stephen Howard.)

Series: Nebraska leads 11-7






Though Henry and his teammates have played plenty of games over the course of their careers, having to play the same team twice in a row would be a first for mostly all of the Huskers.


"I've never played the same team twice (in a row), just in practice going against teammates," Henry said. "This is going to be new, but it should really help both teams out. We should just be ready to play, try and get these wins and see how far we can go."


While in some other sports like baseball teams might hold back a bit in the first meeting like this and save their best for the postseason, it's clear Nebraska has no plans of reserving anything in Round 1 against Baylor.


Head coach Doc Sadler said Friday that he's making sure his team is focused solely on today's game, as a win would give the Huskers an 8-8 record in conference play for the first time under Sadler and also the first time since the 1998-99 season.


"I don't think you even talk about that (yet)," Sadler said. "What I'm concerned about is them tomorrow. It's a big game for us. It gives us a chance to finish 8-8 in the league. I think that's another measuring stick maybe. I think if we all started out in January thinking we'd have a chance to be 8-8 right now, we would've been pretty happy.


"But saying all of that, it's going to be a difficult game. Baylor's one of the most talented teams in this league, and going on the road is going to be hard. You've just got to hope that they don't fit all the pieces in (today)."






Baylor (17-12, 5-10 Big 12)

3:01 p.m.


Nebraska (17-11, 7-8 Big 12)

Big 12 Network, ESPN FullCourt






























PROJECTED STARTERS



Nebraska 17-11




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

5

Sek Henry (6-3, 200)

Jr

8.1/3.3

G

4

Steve Harley (5-11, 180)

Sr

10.3/3.4

G

11

Ade Dagunduro (6-5, 200)

Sr

12.4/4.3

G

24

Cookie Miller (5-7, 165)

Jr

7.3/2.2

F

32

Chris Balham (6-8, 235)

Jr

2.1/2.5





Baylor 17-12




Pos

#

Name

Yr

Pts/reb

G

45

Tweety Carter (5-11, 185)

Jr

11.5/3.1

G

24

LaceDarius Dunn (6-4, 201)

So

15.0/4.4

G

0

Curtis Jerrells (6-1, 201)

Sr

16.3/4.4

F

23

Kevin Rogers (6-9, 250)

Sr

12.1/7.4

C

50

Josh Lomers (7-0, 280)

Jr

2.8/1.5






While there can certainly be some downsides to playing the same team twice in such a short span - such as revealing possible weakness or mismatches that could be exploited better the second game - Henry said it also gives teams a chance to see what areas they struggle in and work to fix them before the rematch.


"Basically, playing the same team twice (in a row) means all the mistakes you made the first time you can make up for the second time and try and do better the next time. So I don't think there should be any excuses for either team (the second time), so you don't make the same mistakes twice."


The next two games for Nebraska will obviously be a new experience, and it's fairly safe to say the Huskers would rather do it against a team other than Baylor. The Bears returned their entire starting five from last season and came into the year expected to challenge for the Big 12 title. A disappointing run through their conference schedule left the Bears far short of their expectations, but that doesn't mean Sadler doesn't see them as the same team most thought they'd be.


Boasting two 7-footers on their roster, the Bears will be as difficult as any team NU has had to defend in the post with its small frontcourt. But Sadler said he was more worried about Baylor's perimeter players than anything, saying guards like Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn, who are averaging 16.3 and 15.0 points per game this season, respectively, are bigger concerns for the Huskers.


Henry said Nebraska must find a way to contain Baylor's perimeter players and keep the Bears from getting hot offensively, otherwise it could be a long day in Waco, Texas, for the Huskers.


"They've got really good guards that can shoot really well," Henry said. "They're a dangerous team. People don't really realize that, but they have the same team from last year. They just poorly this year in conference. We've got to watch out for teams like that, because they could easily win the tournament. We have to be mentally ready to play, because if not, we could really lose big at Baylor."


While there's still an extremely outside chance of Nebraska sneaking into the NCAA Tournament with a magical run through the Big 12 Tournament, a win today would likely all but assure it at least a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.


Sadler said in previous years 7-9 in the conference has been good enough to earn an NIT bid, but with so many question still left to be answered before all is said and done, the Huskers will continue to do as much as they can in hopes of achieving as many of their season goals as they can.


"This year, I don't know what's going to happen," Sadler said. "It's definitely a year that maybe there's going be a lot of things that happen that none of us thought about. I still hold on to the fact that there's going to be six teams in this league (that go to the NCAA Tournament). As I've said before, I think the teams have done their part, we've just got to the league office and everyone else has done their part in getting six teams."


WHAT TO LOOK FOR:


Along with its two 7-footers in centers Josh Lomers and Mamadou Diene, Baylor possesses another low-post threat that Sadler said is far bigger concern for the Huskers.


Averaging 12.1 points and 7.4 rebounds a game, 6-9 forward Kevin Rogers could very well be the biggest for the Bears in the post against NU. Sadler said his ability to score and control the offensive glass makes him especially dangerous for the Huskers, who have had some serious issues against teams that have been able to get second-chance points against them.



WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS


As he's been over the course of the past 11 games, senior guard Ade Dagunduro continues to be the driving force behind Nebraska's offense as of late.


In Wednesday's win over Iowa State, Dagunduro matched his career high with 24 points to help make sure he ended his final game at the Devaney Center on a high note.


WHO'S HOT FOR THE BEARS


There haven't been many guards in the Big 12 that have meant as much to their team as Jerrells has meant for Baylor. Along with averaging better than 16 points per game, Jerrells has dished out five assists per contest to go along with 4.7 rebounds and 44 steals on the year.


With today's game his final home game, the senior will undoubtedly be looking to go out with a bang just like Dagunduro.


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