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February 20, 2010
Huskers holding on to hope for late-season push
At this point, there wouldn't seem to be any reason for Nebraska to have any hope as far as the rest of this season is concerned.
But even with a 1-10 record in the Big 12 Conference and a 13-13 record overall, the Huskers haven't given up on making the most of the most out of their season. With just six regular-season games left go before the start of the league tournament on March 10-13, the players are intent on finally gaining some momentum and making a statement in the tournament.
Even though opposing teams and players - such as Kansas State junior Jacob Pullen, for example - have already written off NU for the year, there's still plenty of time left to make one last run in the minds of the Huskers. The road begins tonight when Missouri (19-7 overall, 7-3 Big 12) comes to town for a 5 p.m. tip.
"Somewhere along the line - it could start tomorrow and it ends all the way up to the Big 12 Tournament - we could win the whole thing," senior guard Sek Henry. "I really see it that as long as we don't give up, it's going to happen. This team, like when we played K-State, Jacob Pullen said if Texas beat us by 40, they could beat us by 42. We came out there and we showed them that we could play with those guys.
"Basically every ranked team we played this year, we played right with them. So when we play them in the tournament, if they come out sluggish, we could easily take advantage and win this whole thing. It starts tomorrow with Missouri, just trying to show everybody that we can play and get a victory at home."
Henry said the biggest reason for hope for a late-season push in the tournament because of the way he and his teammates have practiced all year. With the effort the Huskers have put out each day in practice, Henry said, good things are bound to happen eventually.
That belief extends throughout the locker room, too, as Henry's teammates have also bought in to the idea that the season isn't over just yet.
Head coach Doc Sadler obviously supports his team's optimism, but wasn't quite as focused on post-season play just yet. For him, the only thing that matters for the Huskers right now is simply getting a win and laying the foundation to build upon the rest of the way.
"I don't think we're to that point," Sadler said. "I think we should just be concerned with each day. That's what we've been talking about through this tough stretch. The runs will come if you take care of your business. I really believe that. If we continue to practice hard each and every day, I believe that this team's got some good fortune ahead. When that starts, I don't know.
"The bottom line is, we've got to be tough enough to win a game. We've been in position several times. Everybody wants to think there's a magic play or a magic defensive play - there ain't no magic plays. You either go make a play or you don't. You make the play and you usually win the game. If you don't make the play, you usually lose, and we're not making them. We're fighting our tails off to get in that position, we're trying to make (the plays) and the other team has made the plays and we're not."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Earlier this week, Sadler said he wasn't concerned in the least about Missouri's full-court press defense, saying his teams have never had problems getting the ball up court against it. However, the numbers suggest otherwise. In seven games against Missouri under Sadler, Nebraska has turned the ball over an average of 14.7 times per game. In their first meeting earlier this season, NU committed 12 turnovers. Sadler said Kansas State's press was one of the toughest in the Big 12, and the Huskers had 20 turnovers against the Wildcats. If they want to start that late-season push tonight, they better figure out a way to take care of the ball a lot better than they have in recent years.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE HUSKERS:
Nebraska's offense came alive in Wednesday's loss to Kansas State, and one player who contributed to the breakout game was redshirt freshman guard Eshaunte Jones. Jones connected on 3-of-4 3-pointers and finished with 11 points against the Wildcats. On the year, Jones leads the Big 12 with a 45.2 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE TIGERS:
Sophomore guard Kim English has led the way for Missouri offensively this season, averaging a team-high 14.9 points. In Wednesday's win over Texas, English came up big and led the Tigers with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. He's also the team's leading scorer in conference play, scoring 13.5 points per game.