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January 20, 2011

Confidence is key to ending NU's Big 12 road slump

Whether Nebraska acknowledges the streak or even fully realizes it, the fact of the matter is road wins have been hard to come by for the Huskers in Big 12 Conference play.

So hard, in fact, that they haven't won a league road game since the 2008-09 season.

Already 0-2 on the road in the Big 12 this season, Nebraska (14-4, 2-2) will head into Saturday's game against Texas Tech (8-11, 0-4) in Lubbock, Texas, with a legitimate chance to end its 10-game conference losing streak away from the Devaney Center.

The key to ending the recent travel woes? Apparently it's only a matter of the Huskers realizing just how good they really are.

"That's one thing Doc has really tried to get us to understand," senior guard Drake Beranek. "You don't ever want to compare scores or anything like that, but he keeps making the statement that he doesn't know that we know how good we really could be or how good we really are.

"It's not to say we're going to get a big head or anything, but I think he's trying to give us a little confidence to go into a place and maybe steal a win on the road. It's definitely not a matter of over confidence or trying to full our heads up or anything, it's just trying to get us that confidence which is probably something we've been lacking going into road games."

Sadler said the best way for his team to play with the confidence that it can beat any team in any place was through continued success on the court. Though they lost consecutive games at Missouri and Kansas, the fact that the Huskers were competitive until the final seconds was at least a something to build upon.

Then to come back home and handily beat a red-hot Colorado team, Sadler said, was a sign NU was finally starting to buy in to his optimistic outlook.

"The thing is, I think we've got some talent," Sadler said. "We've got guys that are working hard. Confidence comes by having some success, and the more success that they have, they're going to start believing the way I believe."

As bad as the Huskers have been in league road games, the Red Raiders, who are 0-4 in the Big 12 this season, have lost 11 straight regular season conference contests. Even more, Nebraska is 4-0 against Tech under Sadler, including winning its past two trips to Lubbock.

Even so, by no means does Sadler think Saturday is a game his team should win. Despite Nebraska's recent success over Texas Tech, he said it's still a road game in arguably the deepest and most competitive conferences in college basketball.

"I don't know that you should win a road game," Sadler said. "The advantage is to Texas Tech. But if you're going to contend in this league you've got to beat some teams on the road. They're one of three teams that we have a chance to go on the road in the South side and get, so we need to do that.

"If you're going to be a so-called contender instead of a pretender, you've got to win some road games. So it's important that we try to do everything that we can to give us that chance."

Around the rim

***Despite Texas Tech's 0-4 start to Big 12 play, Sadler said the Red Raiders' experience still makes them a difficult challenge for any team. Tech features four senior returning starters, including two who earned All-Big 12 honorable mention honors last season in guard John Roberson and forward Mike Singletary.

"I think you're gong to get their best effort," Sadler said. "It's a team that went to the NIT last year that was picked relatively high in our league, the highest they've been since (head coach Pat Knight) has been there. There's a lot of expectations, and I'm sure their players, with the number of seniors they have, understand that it's getting close for them. It's going to be difficult."

***Just like it's been since the start of the Big 12 schedule, Sadler said the keys to beating Texas Tech would be preventing transition baskets and keeping the ball out of the lane defensively. On offense, he said Nebraska would have to be much more efficient and capitalize on scoring opportunities.

"On offense, we've got to continue to execute better I our half-court sets," Sadler said. "We can't go three and four possessions without getting a basket. We've got to do a better job of executing."

***Beranek said he doesn't expect the Huskers to go into Saturday's game any differently than they have for any other game this season, saying the team just needs to keep playing with the same confidence and momentum it has been.

"I think it's important for us to stay focused and come into these next couple days of practice and get mentally ready to go," Beranek said. "I don't think we have to do anything special. We just have to stick to what we've been doing here and home and try to get it to carry over to a road game. I think we're set up pretty good. We're playing with a lot of confidence going down to Lubbock."

***Asked about whether he's noticed any similarities between himself and Pat Knight, Sadler said there were probably a few more noticeable differences than anything.

"He's a lot younger, and he probably thinks better looking," Sadler joked. "I know he's in better shape. But no, Pat's a great guy. He's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, a very caring person, and a good guy to be around."



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