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January 14, 2012

Nebraska's lineup finally coming together

Nebraska has looked like a completely different team over the past two games since the return of junior center Jorge Brian Diaz and junior guard Dylan Talley from injuries.

No two Huskers are happier to see them back than junior forward Brandon Ubel and senior guard Toney McCray.

Before Diaz and Talley came back for NU's game at Illinois last weekend, Ubel and McCray were left with the task of playing out of position to help give Nebraska some semblance of a post presence for five games, including its first three Big Ten contests.

With two of the team's biggest pieces back in the mix, Ubel and McCray have felt much more comfortable since returning to their natural positions on the court.

"It's really nice to get those guys back," Ubel said. "They seem to be in their game shape again, and we're kind of meshing with them again. It's definitely nice to have those guys back and have somewhat of a more stable rotation where we know who's going to be where at all times. It's definitely a positive to have those guys back."

For Ubel, he's been able to move back to the power forward spot with Diaz back manning the middle at center. At 6-10, 235, Ubel is definitely built to handle his own at center, but there's no question that the Huskers are a completely different with him and the 6-foot-11 Diaz on the court together.

Plus, having two players who can play center has given Ubel some much-needed breaks during games.

"I can play more at the 4 a little bit, but also like I said, there's a little rotation," Ubel said. "Last game (against Penn State) I got into a little foul trouble early, and we were able to bring Brian in and not miss a beat. It's definitely good for that aspect as well, when somebody gets in foul trouble we've got those guys back to fill in the rotation."

While his versatility is one of his biggest strengths, McCray has also had to play out of his comfort zone with Diaz and Talley sidelined. The 6-foot-6 McCray is a natural fit at the wing, but like Ubel, he had to move inside and play more at the 4 spot to help give NU some depth in the post.

He's been able to put together some nice individual games in losing efforts, as he's caused some match-up problems for bigger, slower defenders on the offensive end. Defensively, however, he's found himself overmatched against the size and strength of Big Ten post players.

Coming off its first conference win of the season, Nebraska seems to be finding a bit of a groove since Diaz and Talley's return. With players like Ubel and McCray able settle back into their natural places on the floor, the lineup head coach Doc Sadler called the best he's had at NU looks like it just might finally be coming together.

"It's huge for us," McCray said. "We all know Diaz and his scoring ability, and he gives us another low-post presence. And Dylan, he can shoot it with anybody. That helps us out tremendously and gives us more depth out there so guys can be fresh and won't be wearing themselves down the last five minutes of the game. We just feel kind if like a different team with them back out there."



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